Spring 2011

Responsive Philanthropy Spring 2011


Written by: Aaron Dorfman

Date: May 18, 2011

Message from the Executive Director

Dear Readers,

In April, I watched as 10 of 12 randomly selected “jurors” found philanthropy “guilty” of not fulfilling its mission to advance the common good during a mock trial that culminated this year’s Council on Foundation’s annual conference.[1] Although the bailiff announced the official verdict as a “hung jury,” clearly there is a growing sense among philanthropoids that the sector is falling short of its expected role in society.

The cover story in this edition of Responsive Philanthropy offers a stark illustration of how philanthropy can do better.

In “Philanthropy’s Blind Spot: Supporting People with Disabilities,” Jim Dickson, board member of the Needmor Fund and the Aid Association for the Blind in the District of Columbia, asks, “Why are people with disabilities not considered, from a funder’s perspective, to be among the poor, underrepresented and disenfranchised?”  He also points out that current grantmaking practices often overlook the need to eliminate the barriers that systemically marginalize people with disabilities.

Lisa Ranghelli, in “In the Limelight Again: Why Labor Unions Matter to Philanthropy” looks at why foundations should not ignore unions. She suggests ways that philanthropy can work with organized labor to advance their missions and offers some resources.

We also looked at continuing efforts to improve transparency in the sector with an interview with Janet Camarena, who manages the Foundation Center’s Glasspockets initiative.

And in “What Philanthropy Can Learn from Bankers about General Support and Multi-Year Grants,” Sean Dobson argues that foundations need to go beyond building a “trusting, respectful and listening partnership with grantees” to avoid imposing unnecessary and burdensome reporting requirements. He offers some comparisons – and lessons for foundations – from banks.

Finally, meet the National People’s Action, a network of community organizations working to advance economic and racial justice in the country.

We always appreciate hearing from you! Please send your feedback about any of the featured articles from this and past issues, as well as suggestions for future stories to


Aaron Dorfman

[1] For more information, visit