Philanthropists need to stand with the most vulnerable and marginalized

Written by: Aaron Dorfman

Date: February 28, 2017

These are incredibly challenging and scary times. Philanthropy has a hugely important role to play in protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

Nonprofit organizations of all shapes and sizes are driving the largest mobilizations and the judicial defense of civil rights. Those groups will continue to play a critical role in the years ahead to protect and promote equity, justice and democracy.

But they can’t do it alone. They need philanthropy – grantmakers and wealthy donors – to step up, too, as leaders, partners and supporters to ensure that they have the resources to win.

In “Philanthropy: It’s time to choose sides,” NCRP’s Dan Petegorsky sees two options for foundations and wealthy donors: They can either side with the most powerful or stand with the most vulnerable. “General statements aren’t enough,” Petegorsky writes. “The times demand more specific actions targeting specific policies.”

Tony Mestres of Seattle Foundation answered questions about the foundation’s journey from an impartial “philanthropic bank” to a civic leader in “Serving Greater Seattle with a commitment to equity and opportunity.” In the interview, Tony says, “When we do what’s right for the community, we are doing what’s right for the community foundation. This requires taking a stand and leaving impartiality behind.”

Rolling back the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a priority of the new presidential administration from day one. Kate Villers of Community Catalyst and an NCRP board member shares why this spells trouble for the millions of people who rely on the ACA and the country’s other health insurance programs. In “The ACA battle in the headlines only hints at opportunities for concerned foundations and donors,” she identifies critical lessons from the passage and implementation of the ACA for funders to help the fight for health care rights.

We asked NCRP members to share in their own words what they think nonprofits need to effectively advocate for and organize communities in defense of equity, inclusion and social justice. Read their responses in “From outrage to action: How philanthropy can support the Resistance.”

The LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund has been listening to their movement-building grantees from the South about how the fund and its members need to respond to the challenges brought by our new political reality. The Fund’s Miabi Chatterji shares what she heard in “8 Lessons from our Southern grantees in the fight for equity and justice.”

Our Member Spotlight features The San Francisco Foundation, a community foundation in the Bay Area that “mobilizes resources and acts as a catalyst for change to build strong communities, foster civic leadership and promote philanthropy.” Last November, they launched the Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building.

We hope you find value in these articles and other resources[1] we’re sharing with all in the sector striving for an equitable and just society. Let us know what you think: Send comments and story ideas to

Aaron Dorfman is president and CEO of NCRP. 

[1] Check out our latest research and blog posts at and

Photo courtesy of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.