The Problems With Philanthropy, and What We Can Do to Fix Them

As I step into a new role where I can provide support for people of color, I recognize philanthropy’s faults

Dr. Carmen Rojas. Courtesy of The Workers Lab.

I heard the whispers after meetings about how to “talk” to funders and manage them so that good work could still have the resources it needed.

Like many young people who wanted to be of service, I spent the early days of my career navigating the idiosyncrasies of foundations and funders. I witnessed some of the smartest people I knew folding themselves into pretzels for grants. I saw how consultants who had never lived in my community were funded to shape its future. I heard the whispers after meetings about how to “talk” to funders and manage them so that good work could still have the resources it needed.

We are often motivated by a belief that our institutions are more precious than the people we purport to serve. This is not true.

On the one side, philanthropy is increasingly calling for transparency, more progressive people of color in leadership, and accountability for the ways our dollars can distort and destroy. On the other side, we value presence over power. We are unwilling to engage in the debates of our time beyond websites and newsletters. And we are often motivated by a belief that our institutions are more precious than the people we purport to serve. This is not true.

Committed to being of service to those who dream in the direction of freedom. Founder of The Workers Lab. Incoming President of Marguerite Casey Foundation.

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