When did community, worker and electoral organizing turn into a Venn diagram, where all we can aspire to is what lies in the overlap between what’s fundable and what builds power?

To figure this out, I delved into three recent books that come at the problems (and solutions) in modern philanthropy from widely different perspectives. When taken together, Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Wealth, Anand Giridharadas’ Winners Take All, and Rob Reich’s Just Giving form a prism, we can use to separate the glaring white light that emanates from philanthropy into its constituent elements.

Winners Take All goes beyond just philanthropy to examine the wider network of “winners” and the constricting bubble of allowable ideas that surrounds them. Giridharadas sheds light on the fact that, “All around us, the winners in our highly inequitable status quo declare themselves partisans of change… [and] are the secret to redressing the injustices.”

Reich ... begins by locating the roots of philanthropy in Islam’s waqf system, “in a non-Judeo-Christian context, a number of core features of the contemporary private philanthropic foundation: a permanent endowment whose revenues are designed to provide public benefits, ... conferral of both material and status advantages to the donor and the donor’s family, with the aggregate result that the supply of public benefits is partly decentralized. The waqf system stands, as does the private foundation, as a widely used mechanism for the private provision of public goods through a permanent endowment.”

Edgar Villanueva’s personal take on philanthropy comes from a career spanning more than fifteen years at the Schott Foundation and other grant-giving institutions, which he combines the healing traditions of his own heritage as a Native American from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

He declares that, “It is (we are) a sleepwalking sector, white zombies spewing the money of dead white people in the name of charity and benevolence. It is (we are) colonialism in the empire’s newest clothes. It is (we are) racism in institutional form.”

Read the full article about limitations of philanthropy by James Mumm at Medium.