Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Philanthropy for the Times

The past year of intolerance and evil in our country has me vacillating from distaste to horror to pain.

We’re fast becoming a nation of haters. We’re hating our neighbors. We’re hating our government. We’re hating change and even more we’re hating change makers. We’re hating the rich. We’re hating the poor. We’re hating ourselves.

As a result we’re maiming each other in thought word and deed. One at a time on our streets…50 at a time in nightclubs…1000 at a time in our prisons.

Many are speaking out – in houses of faith, in community. This is so fundamental and essential! Our collective voices have the greatest potential to create collective care. 

Yet changing hearts and minds and behavior is slow, accomplished person by person and place by place. Though powerful and important, it will not catalyze the transformation so urgently needed NOW. This is where philanthropy can and must enter.

Philanthropy - defined here as the dedicated nonprofit organizations on the front line of providing services and the donors (foundations and individuals) who provide critical resources -  is being challenged to think and act differently to create the conditions for change.  

The times are calling for a “new” nonprofit with a significantly enhanced ability to open new vehicles to engage and mobilize diverse players with fresh and unexpected thinking.  A “new” nonprofit unafraid to name and combat inequity and racism and that sees assets in communities where others see deficits. Nonprofits that leap over boundaries between the for-profit, nonprofit and public worlds to create shared vision and innovation… and can turn on a dime with smart, entrepreneurial responsiveness to dynamic cultural, economic and political winds.

Times like this also demand a “new” donor much more expansive and courageous in who and what gets funded for the “new” nonprofits described above aren’t philanthropy’s traditional beneficiaries. They will look and function fundamentally differently and will come with leaders who don’t have – or desire -- all the socially sanctioned endorsements and pedigree that makes donors comfortable. Leaders who hail from the ranks of those they represent -- meaning the voice they speak is their own – and who prioritize their constituents over their beneficiaries.

Even more important than funding the new nonprofits, donors must be willing to extend their unique access and privilege that affirms the value of this "new" approach and secures them the opportunity for success.  

Philanthropy is the sector most capable and responsible for ushering in wholeness and connectedness that can mitigate the hate. It’s what we’re here for.

Where do we start?

“Community cannot feed for long on itself; it can only flourish where always the boundaries are giving way to the coming of others from beyond them — unknown and undiscovered brothers.” Howard Thurman, The Search For Common Ground 

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