How Can Philanthropy Do More Good?  Aaron Dorfman, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

How Can Philanthropy Do More Good? Aaron Dorfman, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy


(inspirational music) – Surprisingly, a lot
less philanthropic money is intentionally going
to benefit underserved and marginalized communities
than you would think. The average person just
thinks, well, of course, philanthropy, that’s
about helping the poor, but in fact, it’s a
pretty small percentage of philanthropic dollars, about one out of every
three dollars is intended, or can be coded as intended
to benefit underserved or marginalized communities, and that’s a very broad definition. That can be low income communities, communities of color, women and girls, LGBT communities, people with
disabilities, the elderly. I mean, it’s really a
very broad definition, and even when you use that,
it’s a small percentage of philanthropic dollars. We try to challenge and inspire and provoke good
conversations in philanthropy. We’re known as the watchdog
of the philanthropic sector. Before I took over 11 years ago, we were know as the
critic of philanthropy, and now there’s a slight twist on that. It’s more of a critical
friend to philanthropy, pushing and challenging the sector. So we produce original research
that says, you know what? You’re not doing as well
as you think you are, and people will sometimes
get shocked the data that we put forward. But also, trying to sort
of organize conversations behind the scenes, between a
funder who’s doing it well, and one who could really learn from them, and we try to put people together so that they can move forward. There’s a lot of unjustified fear on the part of some foundations, that what’s it going
to do to our reputation if we fund these kinds of groups? Oh, I’m cozy with the
mayor or the school board or whatever, and if we
fund the grassroots groups, that could get in, those
relationships could get in trouble so those are some of
the barriers that see, but look, the reason to
do it absolutely clear. If you’re a donor, and you’re serious about making a difference on the issues, you’ve got to be involved
in changing systems, changing public policy
and influencing that. Government spending dwarfs
philanthropic spending on every single issue. In education alone, it’s
like over 3000 to one, and education is the most popular thing that foundations and high
net worth donors fund. Huge amounts of philanthropic
money going to that. Even, in spite of all
the philanthropic money going into education, if you
add up the public spending, it’s 3000 to one. So you can’t possibly have
influence on all these issues if you’re not changing or
influencing government policy. That’s the reason to do it. You want to leverage your limited dollars to make the most difference possible. And I think a lot of
foundation folks learn this and realize this as they gain
some experience over time. It’s not hyperbole to
say that our democracy is under siege, right now. The current occupant of the White House is really attacking huge
swaths of our population. He’s attacking immigrants,
women, African Americans, and dividing our nation, and philanthropy has an
obligation to step forward and fund the resistance, and
be a part of moving money to groups that can stand up
for fairness and equality and really build the
people power necessary to ensure that our country doesn’t go down the road to fascism.

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