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A Bright Spot for Philanthropy

Photo Credit © Tryfonov/Adobe Stock

I'm feeling hopeful about philanthropy in 2023. Here's why.

When Edgar Villanueva published his 2018 book Decolonizing Wealth, an indictment on philanthropy perpetuating the conditions it purports to improve, there was a strong possibility the message would fail to permeate fortresses that are private foundations. After all, foundations whose goals often include operating into perpetuity are very good at self-preservation.

But four years later, after the collective pain of all of us bearing witness to the murder of George Floyd, and after losing so many people and so much else to the pandemic, Villanueva's themes that money can serve as the medicine to solve systemic racism seem to be resonating in philanthropy. 2022 provided many examples of philanthropy putting money in the hands of Black leaders.

The reparations movement in philanthropy has added ground, with groups like Liberation Ventures securing support from large funders and growing the reparations movement. Also, local giving circles dedicated to reparations are creating funds with capital from white donors and directing resources to Black ventures.

In Colorado, because of the leadership of LaDawn Sullivan, we have seen the rise of the BRIC Fund—the state's first Black Community Fund—supporting Black-led and Black-serving nonprofit organizations. This year The Colorado Trust pledged over $1 million to the BRIC Fund to support executive directors of color.

The New Community Transformation Fund launched by Danielle Shoots has continued to attract capital from private investors and philanthropy alike, to invest primarily in early-stage companies run by entrepreneurs of color.

Other trends are promising as well. While not solely focused on racial equity, MacKenzie Scott is making gifts that are not only the largest-ever for most recipients, but that are also unrestricted; organizations can put the funds to use where they know they will have the most impact. A new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy touts the positive effects of these transformational and "trust-based" gifts. I'm hopeful that other philanthropists will learn that they can make an even larger impact when they stop telling communities how to do their work, and instead just fund them to do what they do best.

For 2023, my hope is the work of "money as medicine" as Villanueva puts it, can shift from putting money in the hands of Black entrepreneurs and executive directors, to shifting the power to them as well. Next up: moving capital to Latino/a, indigenous, Asian, and other groups that have endured colonization, racism, and oppression.

My commitment to you for the coming year: I will keep talking about philanthropy and how funders can relinquish power when they deploy funding. Communities will not experience self-determination until they have the power to invest capital with no strings attached.

I promise to keep bringing up this topic of transferring power when transferring wealth. I invite you to hold me to it, and to join the conversation.

Looking forward with hope to 2023.

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