As a Roman Catholic who has visited Paris many times, I was sad to learn that Notre Dame Cathedral was burning. But I became angry when I saw how quickly “lovers of humanity” mobilized money for rebuilding a building in contrast to the sluggish pace at which institutional philanthropy moves money to human beings.
The speed of the philanthropic response to support Notre Dame’s repair exposed the hypocrisy of a sector that too often claims an inability to move quickly. This incident shows that philanthropy has the resources and the ability to support urgent social justice and movement-building work, but chooses not to.
The destruction of Notre Dame, and any sacred site, is painful, because such places help us to remember people and events that inspire and motivate us to be our best selves. Notre Dame, which means “Our Lady,” invites us to reflect on the life of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Our Lady would be shocked that in 2016 more grant dollars were given to support leisure sports than to support the urgent work of the pro-immigrant and refugee movement.
And Our Lady would be ashamed that a combination of wealthy individuals, companies and foundations pledged more than $300 million within 24 hours to rebuild a symbol of her love, but foundations in the U.S. gave less than half of that in 2016 to support fighting for the people who most closely share her experiences.
If donors and foundations can move this quickly to rebuild a damaged temple, then the broader philanthropic sector can certainly act more swiftly to support people in rebuilding the systems that have damaged their lives.
Start by learning what today’s immigrants and refugees need and how funders can take up the urgent opportunity to support them.
Read the full article about Notre Dame philanthropy by Jeanné Isler at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
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