There is increasing recognition that the vast sums of money in philanthropic foundations, trusts and donor-advised funds today were often built from extractive and exploitative practices such as the enslavement of people, profiting from lands that were stolen from Native Americans, and exploitation of natural resources that often had effects of polluting, disrupting or displacing surrounding communities. At the same time, those philanthropic funds today are theoretically aimed at addressing some of the most pressing and difficult challenges of our times, such as poverty, health inequities, and climate change.  And are stewarded by people often generations removed from the original creation of that wealth.

Reparative philanthropy is a framework that recognizes the tensions in the history of philanthropic capital in this country, and offers a way forward that embraces the complexities of those tensions, as well as providing a pathway into the joy and healing that comes with acknowledging, grieving, and beginning to repair historic wrongs.

The Compton Foundation, which is sunsetting in 2025, is infusing a reparative approach throughout their work, such as organizing white women donors to provide direct support to Black women entrepreneurs, who are historically undercapitalized in their ventures. June noted that this kind of work is hard, but necessary, and that we must do this work hand-in-hand together. It is far too easy to live segregated lives, but it is in reaching out across our comfort zones that we grow, learn, and build the kinds of connections we need to move forward to a more just society.

Reparative philanthropy is about forging those connections. It is about recognizing wrongs that have happened, and acknowledging the necessity of returning resources to communities on whose backs those resources were built. It is about putting in the work to build and sustain relationships, and in holding the truth that we are all interconnected and interdependent.

Read the full article about reparative philanthropy by Miki Akimoto at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.