by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
For generations, American philanthropists have devoted their lives to empowering their fellow citizens. I chose philanthropy as a career because it gave me the opportunity to pass on the ideals of hard work, personal responsibility, education, and faith — ideals that allowed my family to overcome many difficulties. Yet the philanthropic sector is now abandoning this time-tested approach. Instead, it is embracing a political approach that is dividing the country and holding Americans back.
Darren Walker, the head of the Ford Foundation and perhaps the country’s most prominent philanthropist, summed up the new philosophy in a recent interview with 60 Minutes. While Walker’s life is proof that philanthropy can enable people to thrive — it helped him rise from the bottom 1 percent to the top 1 percent — he argues that our industry must turn “from generosity to justice,” which includes “reforming” capitalism and confronting “privilege.” The subtext is that philanthropy must replace broad-based empowerment with left-wing advocacy.
Walker is far from the only philanthropic leader pushing for ideologically motivated charity. The well-known nonprofit writer Vu Le wrote in September that “nonprofit and philanthropy need to stop with this pretense of neutrality and being above the fray.” Writers in Nonprofit Quarterly have called on philanthropies to “reorient their giving” to support more left-wing causes, while the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has called on foundations to devote at least 25 percent of grant dollars to “advocacy” and “organizing” on politically charged issues. In my conversations with fellow philanthropic leaders, I have seen the overwhelming pressure donors face to support specific groups and causes favored by the left.
The current focus is on racial equity and social justice, which Vu Le has said must be the foundation of all charitable giving — a view which Darren Walker has endorsed.