About Bill and Holly
Issue areas: Racial and gender justice
Geographic focus: United States, with a focus on Washington State
Vehicle: The Share Fund, a participatory grantmaking fund not limited to 501(c)(3) recipients
Years in philanthropy: More than 20
Time spent on philanthropy (weekly): Currently at least 10 hours a week
Wealth story: Stock grants as early employees at Microsoft
Recommended by: Stephanie Ellis Smith, CEO and Principal, Phila Engaged Giving
We know the term "wealth redistribution" might feel a little scary to some donors. But the scarier truth is that our country's wealth inequality is at an all-time high, due to the history of white people accumulating wealth off of the labor of, and at the expense of, people of color. And in order to truly achieve racial justice in this country, we need to change the income and wealth inequality that currently exists. We can't really achieve equal opportunity if we as wealthy people refuse to give up any of our extreme privileges and power.
In 2019, we participated in two pivotal experiences: A workshop on white privilege, and a book group on race-based barriers to economic justice.
As we learned more deeply about racial injustice on a systemic scale, we began to understand more clearly how our own circumstances have been shaped by white privilege. Once that realization clicked, it felt natural to focus on systemic reform. Ever since then, we've viewed our finances and our giving through the lens of racial equity, and, as part of that, we intentionally focus on wealth redistribution and sharing power.
Currently, our giving prioritizes systemic change, but also funds some direct relief -- COVID-19 has definitely shown us why it's so important to support both these areas. Under systemic change, we are especially interested in supporting candidates and organizations working towards legislative solutions for racial and gender equity.
On their commitment to redistribute their wealth during their lifetime
That's been tricky in some regards -- we've had to think hard about how much money we need for our own living and about how fast to give the rest away. We've shared our goals with our children, who have been very supportive, and understand the implications for our estate plans and their (non) inheritances. We're also in the equally important process of revamping our investment portfolio to explicitly align with our goals for racial and gender equity. That's actually what we're currently spending a lot of our time trying to figure out.
On giving up philanthropic decision-making power
Our philanthropy has been a great tool for us to practice sharing and even giving up power. We have always given money with no strings attached, and without asking to see particular outcomes or impact measurements. Yet one of the most significant powers we as donors hold is determining which causes receive funding and are prioritized.
We have established The Share Fund, which utilizes a participatory grantmaking process to remove ourselves from the traditional donor power role in philanthropy. We have given our decision-making power to a committee of people of color, who are either members of the communities being funded or are on the ground doing the work themselves. They make the decisions about who and what we fund.
On what other donors can do
Take it one step at a time! But make sure you're taking at least one step and moving forward, because it's so easy to get overwhelmed and stay still. Start with your philanthropy -- there are so many wonderful social justice funds out there that make it really easy to be part of a collective effort. Pick one and sign up to receive their newsletter. We learn so much this way, and it often inspires us to look further afield.
Also, commit to continuing your self-education about race in our country, whether through a book, podcast, movie, or another newsletter (preferably by BIPOC creators). There's no shortage of resources. We really need to continue expanding our awareness of racial inequity.
Final Thoughts: We try to keep the focus on what we have the capacity to do -- and as we progress further in this journey, it's been exciting to learn how deep our capacity actually is. We certainly couldn't have imagined redistributing 10 years ago! We also ground ourselves in the long-term vision. We feel a responsibility to do our part to contribute to a more just future. We let go of the need or the pressure to have all the answers. That has been very freeing.
Read other stories about donors centering equity.