Fall 2013

Responsive Philanthropy Fall 2013


Written by: Aaron Dorfman

Date: November 13, 2013

Message from Executive Director

Dear Colleague,

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m feeling grateful for those who speak out against injustice, wherever they find it. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I’m also feeling especially thankful for donors who give generously and who also realize that just because they have the money doesn’t mean they have all the answers. What are you thankful for?

This issue of Responsive Philanthropy challenges us to revisit our assumptions about the importance of leadership in nonprofits , the application of business models in philanthropy, resistance to funding nonprofit advocacy and the role of flexible grants in protecting our democracy.

In the cover story, “Engage. Listen. Connect. Support,” Gayle Williams, former Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation president, writes about how leadership plays a crucial role in determining the success of any initiative. She offers compelling reasons why foundations need emerging leaders to be successful and suggests four concrete ways to engage and support them.

In “Free(ing) Data: Philanthropy’s Essential Role in Disclosure and Democracy,” Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, shares the story of how multi-year general support grants are playing a critical role in how the organization helps ensure that the public has access to data on how special interest groups are influencing public policy.

Lori Bezahler, president of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, dissects claims by “philanthrocapitalists” that their ideology-free market approach is the best strategy for solving tough social issues. In “Philanthropy: Beyond Business or Charity,” Bezahler describes how foundations can work to change institutions and policies to promote equity and justice with “rigor and focus.”

Regina McGraw, executive director of the Wieboldt Foundation, and Christine Reeves of NCRP urge foundations to diversify their funding strategies to include a democratic approach to their giving. In “Democratic Philanthropy: A Different Perspective on Funding,” they offer 10 common queries about democratic philanthropy and follow-up questions to spur conversation and additional resources.

Also in this issue, our Member Spotlight features the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit law firm that provides legal representation to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals across the country.

We thank all our nonprofit and foundation colleagues who continue to work tirelessly to promote our democracy and strengthen communities.

Tell us how we’re doing and what you think of the articles in this and other editions of Responsive Philanthropy by sending us a note at


Aaron Dorfman