Winter 2019 – President’s Note

The content of our character

Sadly, today, racial divisions have created much polarization and animosity in our public discourse, not only in the media and partisan politics but also in much of the philanthropic world. The Philanthropy Roundtable is guided by the following principles in our approach to racial issues.

We hold it self-evident that all men and women are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We recognize that there are millions of Americans, of all races, who have lost hope that they can participate in the American Dream. And we seek to restore and expand upward mobility among Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

We reject bigotry in all its forms. Including white supremacy and other forms of racial bigotry, religious bigotry, bigotry against the police, and what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations” in our education system.

We believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to succeed.

We salute and admire those who have overcome adversity and hardship to take advantage of this country’s “blessings of liberty.” This includes the rise of African-Americans from slavery and Jim Crow to positions of national political, economic, and cultural leadership. And it includes immigrants from all continents who have become American citizens and who have done so much to strengthen our economic dynamism and to enrich American life. These are stories that should make all Americans proud.

We share Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that one day our children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

We showcase excellence in philanthropy. This includes philanthropic strategies that effectively foster academic achievement among low-income students of all backgrounds, successfully eliminate barriers to work, prepare people for job and career opportunities, and discover breakthroughs in science and cures for disease. We celebrate the pluralism of charitable giving, with different donors pursuing different passions, interests, and strategies in the arts, religion, health care, education, environmental conservation, help for the homeless, public-policy reform, and hundreds of other charitable endeavors.

We believe that philanthropy is strengthened by the exchange of ideas and by robust debate among those with diverse perspectives.

Our philanthropic heroes include Julius Rosenwald, whose matching grants funded 5,000 schools for African Americans in the Jim Crow South; David “The Admiral” Robinson, the NBA superstar who gave away $11 million of his own money to start a model private, now charter, school in inner-city San Antonio; and Oseola McCarty, the African-American washerwoman with a third-grade education who donated $150,000 for scholarships at the University of Southern Mississippi. Their charitable leadership was made possible by a culture and by laws that encourage generosity and that respect the philanthropic choices of individuals and private organizations.

We protect the freedom of donors and foundations to determine their best and most effective policies and practices in hiring, governance, and grantmaking. This freedom will help donors to achieve their charitable objectives and to produce successful outcomes for their beneficiaries. We oppose any government mandate of demographic standards for foundation board and staff composition or grantmaking, as well as any other one-size-fits-all regulation that would discourage charitable giving and limit the opportunity of donors to support causes that align with their mission and values.

A vibrant private sector generates the wealth and income that makes philanthropy possible. We favor a broad-based entrepreneurial economy that will increase giving among all Americans, including donors of color.

We believe that human flourishing is possible when we seek the best in our fellow man, leverage the power of ingenuity, and strengthen families and communities. 

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