As the protests against our deeply anti-Black, extremely racist systems continue, I am glad to see that foundations and nonprofits are getting more engaged in the conversations about how our sector must change.

People with the most lived-experience with injustice have proposed them for decades. So why don’t things change? Why do we keep beating our heads against the wall? What is this wall? What is it made of? I’ve been thinking about it, and think there are three main forces at play.

First is Privilege, which is something we are familiar with, as we discuss it often. Those with privilege want to maintain it, so they will oppose change. But there are two other major forces at work to prevent change, and we barely talk about them, much less deal with them, so I’ll focus on them more here. One major force is Power.

If we do not address power dynamics, our proposed solutions will continue to be stymied.  For instance, many diversity and equity efforts go nowhere because they are relegated to a DEI committee that does not actively include the CEO/ED and key board members.

Demand that the people with power be present.  How many times have all of us been in conversations and think “I wish my board member/CEO/foundation-trustees were here to hear this?” So many important efforts are blocked every day because we allow the people with the most power in our sector to skip out on vital conversations.

Mobilize the voices of the community. As we have seen recently in the protests, power often only responds to massive demonstrations of number.

Work on legislation. How often have sector leaders screamed about the pathetic 5% minimum foundation payout rate? Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs), meanwhile, have no legal mandate to give out any money at all, so many just sit there growing or collecting dust, when donors get tax breaks immediately as soon as they park that money there. B

Use public shaming. he past few weeks on Twitter I have been naming and shaming foundations who perpetuate harmful practices, on behalf of folks using the hashtag #CrappyFundingPractices (You can DM me @nonprofitAF and I will tweet and tag the funder; also point out #AwesomeFundingPractices)

However, there is a third force we have to contend with: Our individual personal conflicts of interest. We cannot confront power effectively without understanding that we are unconsciously motivated to NOT confront power.

Read the full article about preventing change in nonprofit work and philanthropy by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.