On December 12, 2019, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) gathered philanthropy leaders, board members and clients for a discussion of the role of philanthropy in today’s society. The conversation, focused on “Philanthropy Under Fire,” built on concepts explored in RPA’s recent publication, Social Compact in a Changing World. Panelists included:

  • Valerie Rockefeller, Chair, Rockefeller Brothers Fund; RPA Board Member
  • Ray Madoff, Professor, Boston College Law School; Director, Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good
  • Melvin Galloway, Chief Operating Officer, Planned Parenthood, Federation of America
  • John Bae, Program Director, Criminal Justice Reform Public Welfare Foundation

Excerpts from the conversation, which ranged from the role of power and privilege in philanthropy and resource allocation in the public interest to accountability and voices involved in decision making, follow.

Melissa Berman: There are a number of key questions circulating around the philanthropic community about the degree of influence individual and institutional philanthropists have over the public sphere. These questions encompass a set of challenging concepts that have relatively few clear and crisp answers but are important to helping the field progress.

Valerie Rockefeller: Valerie Rockefeller: From a philanthropic point of view, the challenge of scrutiny is also an opportunity for greater transparency because if you’re going to be under scrutiny then you think, “Great, this is a good chance for us to ‘up our game’in what we’re doing and to be more proactive in sharing the message.” So, you always have to be humble and make sure that you’re putting your grantees and your work first.

But as long asyou’re being observed more closely, you can say, “This isn’t about us. Yes, the money is concentrated in families and endowments. And this is not how it should be, or how it will be when we achieve social justice,” which all of us in this room are working towards.

Read the full article about critiques of philanthropy by Caroline Suozzi at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.