We are living in messy times. The impact of a frail democracy and fissured economy is that day-to-day living for far too many people in the United States is desperate and dire, while a handful of plutocrats, willing to game these political and economic systems, are lining their pockets to consolidate wealth, power, and political influence. Philanthropy is implicated in the creation of these realities. I say this as the leader of a national foundation, but one that came in eager to reform the work and ways of philanthropists, in and outside of my own institution. Many of us are seeking to make sense of our role in disentangling the relationship between wealth and power, redistributing resources for the fights for justice ahead, and repairing generations of harm caused by the institutions we now lead. As I continue to make sense of this for myself, I’m reminded that the fight for justice is always unbalanced. And so, as I think about what should be next for philanthropy, at Marguerite Casey Foundation and across the sector, I would suggest we hyper-focus on doing what we do at our best: moving money to create a more even terrain for organizers, activists, and scholars to fight for a representative multiracial democracy, just economy, and a planet that is treated as sacred.

I think the messiness of our times has distracted us from and confused many of us about what we do best as philanthropists. The last two years created an opening for us to reflect on past practices, engage new leaders, and publically name the winners of our current political and economic systems. It was an opening that many ran through, others peeped through, and some turned their backs on. The incongruent ways philanthropic leaders approached the pandemic, racial uprisings, and ensuing economic precarity led to many of us using the same words with wildly different definitions, approaches, and actions. This creates tension and has the power to undermine our collective impact in a number of ways.

Read the full article about philanthropy and social justice movements by Carmen Rojas at Stanford Social Innovation Review.