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We know about the barriers nonprofits face to procure funding for pilot programs. Chief among them is what feels like the hesitance of many funders to support leaders who are seeking to innovate. Rashad Robinson has touched on the challenge of procuring pilot funding with regards to Color of Change initiatives that subsequently turned out to be extremely successful. In a conversation with CEP staff last year, Shaheer Mustafa, president and CEO of HopeWell, a New England nonprofit social services agency, described the initial difficulty of raising funding for the organization’s now-proven My First Place program until philanthropy stepped up. How much more impact could philanthropy achieve if there were more funders who were willing to provide the resources to test creative solutions? If funders aren’t willing to take on more risk to fund inventive pilots, the potential costs to people and communities like those served by Color of Change and HopeWell are immeasurable.
As I’ve followed the coverage of recent rallies and protests, I have been inspired by stories (like this one reported on MSN) of white protestors “forming a barrier between Black protestors and the police,” essentially using their privilege to shield others — and in doing so increasing their personal risk. Reading about and seeing videos of this, I thought, isn’t this the role of philanthropy, given the power and privilege it has been granted by the laws governing it, and by its lax accountability to the people (when compared to for-profit businesses or government)?
If philanthropy is going to use its privilege and increase its risk-taking, there are several essential questions to consider.
How does philanthropy weigh the risks calculated in current practices against the potential risks to society if philanthropy does not do enough in this pivotal moment? Who gets to decide what is enough?
Is it time to redefine what the picture of risk looks like in philanthropy? If yes, whose perspectives should drive the conversation?
And how can philanthropy better take risks to support the development and testing of the creative solutions that are not precedented, but are very much needed in these truly exceptional times?
Read the full article about philanthropy’s privilege by Leaha Wynn at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.