Over the past year and a half, the United States has reckoned with the pandemic, a breakdown of race relations, rising wealth inequality, the looming threat of climate change and a disorderly transition of power. US philanthropy has responded with more funding, more flexibility, and greater urgency in promoting racial justice, action on climate change and reforms to its own practice. But is it enough? And is the outlook different in Canada?

This webinar was part of Alliance’s 25th anniversary series, which looks at what the future of philanthropy holds in different regions around the world. It focused on the U.S and Canada, and was produced in partnership with United Philanthropy Forum.

Moderated by Charles Keidan, executive editor for Alliance magazine, the speakers were: Marissa Tirona, President of Grantmakers concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR); Dr Maribel Morey, director of the Miami Institute for social sciences, co-founder of the HistPhil website, and author of an upcoming book on the history of Carnegie Corporation; and Hilary Pearson, founder and former president of Philanthropic Foundations Canada (2001-2019), and author of an upcoming book on Canadian philanthropy. Amanda Andere, chair of United Philanthropy Forum and CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness, gave opening and closing remarks.

Amanda Andere

Following Charles’ opening, Amanda introduced the work of United Philanthropy Forum (UPF), a membership network of more than 90 regional and national philanthropy-serving organisations, representing more than 7000 funders across the US. The forum envisions a ‘courageous philanthropy sector that catalyses a just and equitable society where all can participate and prosper.’

She posed some important framing questions, asking, ‘is diversity and inclusion enough, or do we need to take bold action that starts to dismantle power and decolonize the role of philanthropy as gatekeepers by leading with justice and liberation?’

She and other UPF members want to ‘lead with vision and action, and that action has to start with change at the policy and systems level.’ She encouraged the audience to consider ‘how we censor ourselves in this work, how we are all gatekeepers by the privilege we might have’ and suggested that ‘we start to decolonise our own thinking’ around philanthropy.

Marissa Tirona

Marissa gave her thoughts on what the current priorities for philanthropy in the US are, and whether they are the right ones to best serve future generations. Though the sector ‘hasn’t prioritised developing a shared, collective, cohesive vision for itself’, Marissa did give an illustrative list of some emerging priorities in the US institutional philanthropic sector:

  • Increased investment in addressing racial justice, with significant investment in organisations led by and for Black people.
  • More investment by large philanthropic organisations in power-building and organising to promote democratic processes, rebuilding trust in governmental institutions, and addressing disinformation and rising authoritarianism.
  • Focus on climate change, with more emphasis on centering justice in addressing this challenge.

Read the full article about structural changes in philanthropy by Annmarie McQueen at Alliance Magazine.