Our system works just fine
I do not believe
We need to reimagine or redesign
The social constructs benefit me
I am uncomfortable if
I must give and share power generously
I, as funder, get to decide
I cannot see how
The community should be the one to preside
Lived experience is overrated
I do not agree
Those people have the solutions we have awaited
Give project support with lots of strings
It is not smart to
Trust those groups to do the right things
Treat injustice with band-aids
I do not want to
Remove the systemic and institutional barricades
Give people fish every day
Then no one needs to
Take the fence around the pond away
Incremental steps are a more palatable transformation
I do not care that
We need bold, radical, organized agitation
I became frustrated with philanthropy very early in my career. The traditional model of philanthropy perpetuates the very injustices that it claims to want to remedy. Many funders refuse to see the assets of the communities they want to impact. They do not trust them to participate in designing the solutions that would impact their lives. The process of getting a grant is long and paternalistic. And funders refuse to engage in systems changes work, in part, because they do not want to challenge their social standing or the social order. It is why less than 10 percent of funding goes into communities of color.
Donors of Color looks, feels, and acts differently. It treats community-based organizations with dignity and respect. It trusts people with lived experience to design their own solutions. It seeks and embraces bold ideas, radical imagination, and revolutionary action. It builds power and disrupts the status quo. It is a different type of funder and donor organization. An organization for us and by us. And it is desperately needed because most of philanthropy is, as described in the above poem, deficit-based, racist, paternalistic, and shallow.
Despite being disheartened so early in my career, I have stayed in philanthropy for the past 10 years, fighting to change it, because I know there is another way. We can lead other funders to a better way. The traditional model of philanthropy is upside down.
Read the full article about leading funders another way to transform philanthropy by Brenda Sears at Donors of Color Network.