Philanthropic Freedom is Under Attack and Here’s What You Should Know

“When philanthropy is public money there is really no limit to the number of mandates that someone can dream up to try to impose on the philanthropic sector,” said Christie Herrera, executive director of the Alliance for Charitable Excellence, during an August webinar hosted by The Philanthropy Roundtable.

During this discussion moderated by Debi Ghate, vice president of strategy and innovation at The Philanthropy Roundtable, defenders of philanthropic freedom gathered to answer one pressing question: is philanthropic freedom disappearing? 

The reality is that philanthropic freedom has been under attack for decades. During this panel, Roundtable board member John Tyler addressed the legal and constitutional ground for philanthropic freedom, along with the long history of threats to these rights. Sandra Swirski, executive director of the Alliance for Charitable Reform, illuminated the key tactics enemies of philanthropic freedom use in calling for reform. Herrera shared what’s happening on the ground and what the Roundtable has done to combat diversity mandates and donor-disclosure laws nationwide. And Sara Barba, vice president of Urban Swirski & Associates, talked about existing policy threats and looked ahead at forthcoming obstacles.

In the face of relentless threats, The Philanthropy Roundtable will continue, as it always has, to fight tirelessly for philanthropic freedom, combat well-intended, but counterproductive mandates, and flip the script on how opponents try to diminish and label these rights. 

Watch the full webinar to learn how to join the fight.

Is Philanthropic Freedom Disappearing?

“I was fortunate to attend The Philanthropy Roundtable’s panel discussion on philanthropic freedom. The panel’s message urging us all to change the vocabulary of the debate resonated with me. In place of allowing opponents to define the terms of the debate, let us highlight our concepts and what we stand for by urging everyone to think about what’s actually at stake: philanthropic freedom, freedom of charitable giving, freedom from government coercion in charitable/philanthropic decision making, freedom to give voluntary donations, freedom from restrictions on giving voluntary donations. We disserve the values that we hold dear, and our individual-rights-centric approach to philanthropic freedom, by using terms such as ‘dark money,’ ‘dirty money,’ or ‘donor disclosure,’ instead of focusing on philanthropic freedom and noncoerced charitable decision making.” 

Adi Dynar, Litigation Counsel
New Civil Liberties Alliance

Related reading

Don’t Destroy Foundations’ Ability to Respond to the World’s Next Crisis,” an op-ed by Joanne Florino for The Chronicle of Philanthropy

How policymakers are threatening philanthropy in 2020” by Patrice Lee Onwuka for The Washington Examiner

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