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I’m tired of apologizing for philanthropy. For our inconsiderate behavior. For our inefficient timelines. For our opaque communication (or entire lack of communication). For our ego-driven fragmentation. And for so much more. The nonprofit world that we are part of has boundless untapped potential that is being held hostage by philanthropy’s disappointing behavior.
The time has come for all of us who are grant makers to admit to our mistakes, move past them, and unite with nonprofits toward a brighter future fueled by risk-taking, humility, and courage. We need to change ourselves first if we hope nonprofits will change with us.
Once a person, family, or other group places assets into a foundation, it no longer belongs to individuals or families. It doesn’t belong to staff or boards or corporations or nonprofits. Nobody owns the money in a foundation. It belongs to the foundation, which is also not owned by anybody — not even the founder or the board. The funds in a foundation exist to serve the public good. It’s not our money.
Even if we’re not conscious of it, those of us close to money have more power. Because we are the people influencing where the money goes, nonprofits and others regard us as powerful people. All of us who are stewards of foundation money hold a disproportionate amount of influence, even though it is largely unearned.
Most of us let that power and influence shape our interactions with nonprofits. I know we — donors and staff members of foundations — can do better. We’ve hobbled our own progress for long enough, so let’s look at what’s possible. True partnership is the card we have yet to play.
It will require all of us — philanthropy professionals, founders of grant-making organizations, foundation board members — to recognize the power inherent in our proximity to wealth. Even more important, we must actively share some of that power.
Read the full article about family foundation power by Jessamyn Shams-Lau at National Center for Family Philanthropy.