Letter to the Editor: Florino Pushes Back on Craig Kennedy’s Objection to Pluralism Op-Ed

In a Letter to the Editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled “Philanthropy Roundtable Objects to Characterization of Its Work in Recent Op-Ed,” Philanthropy Roundtable’s Adam Meyerson Distinguished Fellow in Philanthropic Excellence Joanne Florino responded to a recent op-ed entitled, “What Was the Philanthropic Pluralism Manifesto Really About?” written by Craig Kennedy, senior fellow with American Purpose and former Joyce Foundation and German Marshall Fund president.

In his op-ed, Kennedy critiques, “We Disagree on Many Things, but We Speak With One Voice in Support of Philanthropic Pluralism,” authored by six philanthropic sector leaders including President and CEO of Philanthropy Roundtable Elise Westhoff. The op-ed co-authored by Westhoff re-establishes principles agreed upon by philanthropic sector leaders, who disagree on many issues but are united when it comes the importance of philanthropic pluralism and mutual respect among institutions.

Read the Letter to the Editor, published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, below:

“In his May 4, 2023, opinion piece, ‘What Was the Philanthropic Pluralism Manifesto Really About?,’ Craig Kennedy attempts to cast doubt on Philanthropy Roundtable’s longstanding values of liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility and questions our principled and steadfast approach in support of philanthropic freedom. Ironically, supporting philanthropic freedom means supporting Kennedy’s right to voice his concerns and critiques of others in the field.

“The diversity of the causes, communities and missions that philanthropy funds reflects the diversity of our great nation. There are so many needs in this country — all worthy should a donor choose to invest in them. That is the kind of pluralism Philanthropy Roundtable supports, and has supported, since the organization’s earliest days.

“The values shared by the Philanthropy Roundtable community are not neutral, and we haven’t refrained from publicly expressing this fact. Writing in USA Today, our president and CEO, Elise Westhoff, noted that the organization’s values often conflict with those of others in philanthropy:

“‘At its best, philanthropy has given people the tools and resources they need to succeed. It enables people to rise together with the help of communities and private generosity. Yet the turn toward government-driven efforts sends a completely different message. It implicitly says people who are struggling have little chance of rising without public intervention. This is a deeply impersonal and even hopeless message, compared with philanthropy’s more productive role of fostering personal trust and unlocking individual ability.’

“Philanthropy Roundtable’s mission has not changed. We will continue to foster excellence in the field, protect philanthropic freedom and help donors advance liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility through effective charitable giving.

“The Roundtable, for example, has long supported philanthropists working to alleviate poverty through community and faith-based approaches. Although poverty is primarily defined by a lack of physical resources, multiple nuanced and often interlinked factors are also at play. We’ve started a storytelling initiative to highlight the important work in this area supported by philanthropy and launched an opportunity playbook that focuses on how education, workforce development and poverty alleviation create pathways to opportunity.

“Thousands of charitable organizations are working on a wide range of approaches to address societal challenges. Real progress requires an environment where new ideas are welcomed, debated and tested — not silenced. When we at the Roundtable see public policy that would restrict that freedom, we speak out against it. Arguing, as Kennedy does, that an op-ed written by several philanthropy leaders, including Westhoff, is a veiled attempt at policy advocacy suggests he may not have understood the essence of the piece.

“So, let’s be clear: We support a healthy, diverse field that embraces a wide variety of solutions to problems. This is just one way we remain true to our vision to build and sustain a vibrant American philanthropic movement that strengthens our free society.

“Even during turbulent times and amid growing polarization, Philanthropy Roundtable remains a principled and staunch advocate for philanthropic freedom.”

Read “Philanthropy Roundtable Objects to Characterization of Its Work in Recent Op-Ed,” at The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Get the Latest News on the Freedom to Give

Sign up today for our Philanthropic Freedom Newsletter, and each month we’ll send you the latest public policy news from around the country, plus policy research, analysis and more.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.