Giving Compass' Take:

• In this United Philanthropy Forum post, author Kimberly Casey argues for critical self-reflection among wealthy philanthropists who, by the virtue of their wealth, wield enormous power. 

• Is it possible for wealthy donors to dismantle the systems of inequality that helped to create their wealth? How can high-net-worth individuals best serve their communities? 

•  Learn about the National Center for Family Philanthropy's toolkit for equity.

Philanthropy, by the nature of having money, is automatically bestowed with power even in the most collegial collaborative settings. This power imbalance between philanthropy and nonprofits creates a situation where we think and act as if we know what is best for others without actually talking to the people in communities.

Philanthropies may not be ready to abdicate their power, but they can recognize how it plays out in grantee relationships and community. Once we critically assess our own power dynamics, we will be better positioned to understand how to wield that power to gain greater impact and return on investment.

Many of us use power in our personal lives to connect to other people, to open doors of opportunity and to knit together resources. When we enter into social sector institutions, we often feel as if we should not use our power to make things happen. However, I argue that by not recognizing the power we bring to organizations and the tables we sit at, we continue to support systemic inequities.

Systemic inequities are baked into all that we do; they do not need us to act individually or organizationally. When we do not recognize the power within, and don’t make community the center of influence, we allow system inequities to undermine our wonderful work and good intentions.

Read the full article about philanthropy's power structure by Kimberly Casey at United Philanthropy Forum.