Attacking Traditional Philanthropy Is Wrongheaded and Out of Sync With Most Americans’ Giving

Attacking Traditional Philanthropy Is Wrongheaded and Out of Sync With Most Americans’ Giving

Mar 09, 2021 Howard Husock

On Chronicle of Philanthropy Howard Husock writes:

The traditional definition of charity — helping those in need through one’s giving — has come under fire by philanthropic leaders as insufficient, even misguided. Philanthropy, we are told, must think much bigger. Rather than offering crumbs from the table of the wealthy, it must support efforts to correct, even replace, a fundamentally unjust American social and economic system.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and a leading proponent of such thinking, has called for a “justice-based philanthropy” that re-examines the social structures that created philanthropic wealth and perpetuated inequality. Echoing that view, Stanford University philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz writes: “Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations that want to address our systemic crises need to be prepared to take on the societal systems that created them — and that have allowed their own organizations to flourish.”

This focus on social and economic change as the essence of philanthropy must not go unchallenged. It does not describe, or circumscribe, the reality behind Americans’ $300 billion-plus in giving annually. Much of that giving reflects a different set of guiding principles: concern for one’s community, a desire to help disadvantaged people achieve upward mobility in a system striving to be just, a dedication to pushing the boundaries of discovery in science and medicine, and a passion for preserving shared traditions of art and music.

Read the full article here.