Institutional philanthropy (specifically trusts and foundations) has been the subject of significant criticism (though that’s not the same thing as effective scrutiny – which remains lacking) over the past 12 months. Hoarding power, disregarding equity, degrading the environment, perpetuating inequality, lacking insight, amassing wealth, obsessed with process – are just some of the charges being laid against trusts and foundations in the UK. In the US, additional charges include undermining democracy and aiding tax avoidance by the wealthy.
Whether we like it or not, the behaviour of every foundation (community, family, corporate, place-based, generalist, large, small, etc) contributes to how all foundations are perceived. And perception matters. Because perception within the foundation sector drives how we behave. We copy what other foundations do and we measure ourselves against them. And perception matters outside the foundation sector because foundations are permitted to exist only because of public and political support for the institution.
Elsewhere I have argued that it’s time for trusts and foundations to set our own house in order – otherwise we should be regulated to do so https://newreciprocity.com/2018/11/06/trusts-and-foundations-have-a-diversity-deficit-is-it-time-for-regulation-to-fix-it/
My view hasn’t changed. It’s up to trust and foundation leaders (staff and trustees) to apply a critical framework to how our organisations work and why they exist. A good place to start is to familiarise ourselves with the arguments of our critics and commentators – within and outside the trust and foundation movement. Here are some suggestions (click on the image):
Philanthropy is at a turning point. Here are 6 ways it could go – Rhodri Davies (CAF)
The Paralysis of Power: how outdated structures are stifling foundations – Fozia Irfan (Bedfordshire & Luton Community Foundation)
The coming of hope: A vision for philanthropy in the new year – Darren Walker (Ford Foundation)
Decolonising Wealth – Edgar Villanueva
Just Giving – Rob Reich
Unlocking Philanthropy’s Potential – WINGS
Recognize privilege and confront it to do philanthropy well – Geo Funders
Public Good by Private Means – Rhodri Davies (CAF)