Recent articles from philanthropic publications like The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Inside Philanthropy have taken issue with the new direction at Philanthropy Roundtable and the leadership of our CEO Elise Westhoff. In light of some mischaracterizations in these pieces, we are taking the opportunity to clarify for our readers what the Roundtable is, and why we have been advocating for charitable giving that advances our long-held values of liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility. We believe that effective charitable giving based on these core principles improves the lives of struggling individuals and communities around the country.
The Roundtable’s values have remained consistent for three decades. Some in the philanthropic sector disagree with our positions, but we will continue to be clear and transparent about our beliefs. For 30 years, our community has worked to empower individuals and strengthen communities based on our core principles. We are deeply committed to our vision to build a vibrant philanthropic movement that strengthens our free society. By sharing our perspective, we hope to highlight all the many different ways donors can uplift people in need. At the Roundtable, our community will continue to work with groups that promote America’s founding principles, provide pathways to opportunity and strengthen communities.
Pushing Back Against an Illiberal Culture
These recent articles illustrate a disturbing trend in the philanthropic sector: It has become an illiberal space where honest dialogue and debate on complex issues are not welcome. There is tremendous pressure for donors and nonprofits to embrace far-left dogma rather than engage in productive discussions on the best ways to help struggling communities. In order to move forward as a country and find the best solutions to support those in need, we must be willing to have difficult conversations, ask tough questions, challenge the status quo and listen with an open mind to people with different points of view.
Unfortunately, the consistent message from some philanthropic leaders that has been received by our community is that those who disagree with the prevailing narrative must accept certain premises, comply with an opposing worldview or be subject to bullying and shaming. This mentality will not bring us closer together as a country and will not allow us to identify the best solutions to assist those in need. For these reasons, we will continue to speak up and advocate for the values shared by millions of Americans—liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility.
Supporting Equality of Opportunity for All Americans
At the Roundtable, we amplify nonprofit organizations and thought leaders who promote equality and pursue innovative efforts to support communities. This means we acknowledge our country’s complicated history, condemn racism, anti-Semitism and hate in all forms, and recognize that nonprofits have diverse missions as they tackle complex problems. Diversity of thought and experiences make civil society stronger. Over the years, the Roundtable’s donor network has invested in numerous efforts that provide opportunities for struggling individuals to change the trajectories of their lives. These efforts include:
- Supporting school choice so that every child has access to a quality education
- Creating pathways to meaningful employment for those stuck in the cycle of poverty
- Enacting rational criminal justice reforms that balance safety with individual rights
… and so much more.
While diversity and inclusion are worthy goals, recent policies and mandates that some philanthropic leaders promote would do little to address the daily hardships of the communities they seek to help. Instead, they cater to identity politics and reduce people to a box they are asked to check on a form.
The Philanthropy Roundtable’s True Diversity campaign celebrates the rich identities and characteristics that make each person unique and special. We believe philanthropy should encourage collaboration between people with diverse experiences, skills, knowledge and backgrounds to develop the most effective ideas and solutions for helping those in need. We also believe that people of all colors and creeds have the ability to overcome challenging circumstances, realize their full potential and succeed in life. Learn more about the Five Principles of True Diversity here.
Working Together to Protect Philanthropic Freedom
As a champion of philanthropic freedom, the Roundtable’s policy work is fundamental to our organization. We will fight for anyone’s right to give how, when and where they choose. We believe that the right policy framework and culture will encourage effective charitable giving, preserve the voluntary nature of this tradition, protect donor privacy and encourage the necessary conversations that allow the sector to thrive.
Our policy team has decades of experience in policy and government relations on the federal and state levels. The idea that disagreement on individual issues hurts our ability to build coalitions is absurd. We have effectively worked with organizations representing a broad range of perspectives and continue to do so. One very recent example includes the King-Grassley bill, where organizations across the ideological and political spectrum have united to voice concerns and oppose this legislation. In addition, we have joined forces with many diverse organizations in support of donor privacy. We proudly stand together with a variety of organizations to protect philanthropic freedom, because we believe it is critical to the health and success of our sector.
To learn more about the Roundtable and our work, you can read more here.