How can grantmakers be accountable when they have little oversight?

Judy Belk, chief executive of The California Wellness Foundation, reflects on how the foundation wields its power in ways that are grounded in the wellbeing and interests of the communities it serves to maximize its impact.

Written by: Kristina ("Yna") C. Moore

Date: October 29, 2018

There’s no way around it, and it’s futile to deny it. Grantmakers have power.

In “Wielding Philanthropic Power with Accountability,” Judy Belk, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation, writes about the importance of speaking up about power and money, and of acknowledging the many choices at the disposal each grantmaker to effectively achieve its mission.

“We get to choose the issues we want to spotlight, the groups we want to fund, how much they get, when they get it and when they don’t, how we want to use our voice, who manages our investments, who we collaborate with, and who calls the shots in our board rooms and executive suites. We also have significant money, power, and influence with little accountability. … So I worry. Even though most days I agree I have one of the best gigs in California, I worry about how we can most effectively leverage all the assets we have at our disposal given so many choices and so little oversight.”

– Judy Belk, President and CEO
The California Wellness Foundation
Wielding Philanthropic Power with Accountability

Wielding Philanthropic Power with Accountability” is part of the new Power in Philanthropy series on the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) blog in collaboration with NCRP. Contributors from NCRP and nonprofit and philanthropic leaders explore popular concepts in philanthropy – such as risk, capacity building and public leadership – through the lens of power and equitable outcomes.

Power in Philanthropy is based on NCRP’s “Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justice.”

Related articles:

Power, Privilege, and Effectiveness: Are Funders Connecting the Dots?
by Kathleen Enright, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

The Power of Families: From Poverty to Agency to Unity
by Luz Vega-Marquis, Marguerite Casey Foundation

Philanthropy’s Ultimate Power-Sharing Opportunity: Governance
by Jim Canales and Barbara Hostetter, Barr Foundation

Philanthropic Leadership Means Following the Frontlines
by Alison Corwin, Surdna Foundation

Wielding Philanthropic Leadership With, Not For
by Grant Oliphant, The Heinz Endowments

Family foundations benefit from diverse boards
by Ruth Cummings and Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation

Don’t miss forthcoming posts by Linda Campbell of Building Movement Project and NCRP’s own Lisa Ranghelli.

Visit Power in Philanthropy on SSIR 

Or stay tuned on NCRP’s blog for links
to the latest articles in the series.

Yna C. Moore is senior director of communications of NCRP. Follow @ynamoore and @ncrp on Twitter. Join the conversation on #PowerMovesEquity.