Winter 2011-12

Responsive Philanthropy Winter 2011-12


Written by: Aaron Dorfman

Date: January 26, 2012

A Message from the Executive Director

Dear Readers,

Barriers to injustice and inequality are increasingly being challenged in the United States and across the world. Unfortunately, the environmental movement is trailing behind. Environmental initiatives are being stalled and attacked, and the condition of our planet is declining. Now more than ever, it is imperative that environment and climate funders invest in ways that truly help us build and strengthen the environmental movement’s ability to win real change.

With that goal in mind, NCRP will release in late February the next report from our High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy series. It will explore how philanthropy can help the environmental movement by increasing funding for grassroots communities that are directly affected by environmental harms and decreasing reliance on top-down funding strategies.

In this issue of Responsive Philanthropy, we hope to whet your appetite for that forthcoming report. In our cover story, Danielle Deane describes the impact of funding grassroots organizing for environmental change. She looks at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s initiative called “New Constituencies for the Environment” and how it has strengthened the environmental movement in California by expanding the range of groups advocating for clean air.

This issue also examines other important issues in our sector. Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, looks at the use of charity for moral enhancement and how large charitable gifts can complicate the workings of major institutions that want to avoid being used as public foils.

In “Philanthropy and Inequality: What’s the Relationship?” NCRP research associate Kevin Laskowski explores how philanthropy has grown in the midst of rising economic and social inequality in the United States. He writes, “Foundations and other philanthropic vehicles are simply tools that can be put to any number of uses. If we care about our democracy, we have to ensure that reducing inequality is one of them.”

Barbara Heisler, executive director of the Funding Exchange, describes the organization’s grantmaking model. She discusses how the unique approach to grantmaking has allowed the foundation to support social movements in new ways and tackle the root causes of poverty and injustice.

Finally, our Member Spotlight features the work of The California Endowment, a foundation that works to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities.

We always are striving to make Responsive Philanthropy a better resource on important issues in philanthropy. Please feel free to send comments, suggestions or story ideas to

We look forward to hearing from you.


Aaron Dorfman

Executive Director