We as a field have become and are encouraged to become increasingly “strategic” in our efforts. There is literature on the subject; we hold conferences and conference sessions on it. But, for all this strategy, are we more effective as a result? I would say not as much as we could be.
In recent years, philanthropy has adopted much of the type of strategic philanthropy described by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey. Although the shift toward strategic philanthropy has improved effectiveness, it has done so at a cost: There is significantly less attention paid to transformative change by prioritizing and including underserved communities and support of community organizing—approaches long understood by social justice philanthropists. Indeed, most of the major social movements of our time can be traced to grassroots movements and the tactics of advocacy and organizing.
In NCRP’s new report, “Real Results: Why Strategic Philanthropy is Social Justice Philanthropy,” Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski explain why, at their best, strategic philanthropy and social justice philanthropy are, in fact, the same.
To conclude the report, Niki and Kevin present these questions grantmakers can ask about the role of social justice in their strategic efforts:
I encourage you to read Real Results and to take these questions into consideration as you develop your grantmaking strategy with grantees and others.
Aaron Dorfman is executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) and frequently blogs about the role of philanthropy in society. He presented the report during the “Beyond Silos and Short Term Goals: How High-Impact Are Your Strategies” session at the Council on Foundations 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference.