This year has seen incredible leadership and dangerous failures from philanthropy

Written by: Aaron Dorfman

Date: November 10, 2020

Leadership matters, especially in challenging times. 

I am feeling deep gratitude for the nonprofits (501c3 and 501c4) that played such an incredibly important role this year protecting democracy. Their work was absolutely pivotal. 

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected president and vice president of the U.S. Control of the Senate won’t be decided until the January runoff elections in Georgia. While the full implications of the election remain uncertain, one thing is crystal clear: Philanthropic funding for movements will be needed more than ever in 2021. Sustained grassroots organizing is essential if we hope to make progress on the pressing issues facing our nation and the world. 

In this issue of Responsive Philanthropy, we explore courageous leadership and damaging failures of leadership at some of the nation’s largest philanthropies. 

Performative philanthropy and the cost of silence

Ray Holgado, a former Chan Zuckerberg Initiative employee who recently filed a discrimination claim against the philanthropy with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, offers a blistering critique of the philanthropy’s alleged racial discrimination toward Black staff and suggestions for how the field can move forward.

Filling in NoVo’s void

Brandi Collins-Calhoun, NCRP’s senior movement engagement associate, shares a deeply personal account of how NoVo Foundation’s decision earlier this year to eliminate its gendered violence program is impacting Black women in philanthropy and social justice movements. She also challenges other donors to step up and urges NoVo to execute a responsible exit – something the foundation has committed to in general terms without offering any specifics thus far. 

Donors and foundations are increasingly supporting movements

The above examples notwithstanding, it has not been all bad news for philanthropic leadership in 2020. In fact, many high-net-worth donors and foundations have been leading in phenomenal ways. I lay out some shining examples of philanthropy supporting movement work.