This Is Not A Normal Grant Cycle Or A Time To Wait And See
by Eric Kessler, Founder, Arabella Advisors
Donors with a wide variety of political beliefs and philanthropic missions—all of whom Arabella serves—have reached out to me to express their concerns. They see that the diversity they have championed, the social safety net they have built, the environment they have preserved, and the American values they have defended are now at grave risk.
They realize that this is not a normal grant cycle or a time to wait and see. This is a time for donors to renew their support for their core values and to recognize the roles they can play in enabling organizations and leaders to fight for a brighter future. This is a time for donors to resist the temptation to treat our current trajectory as the new normal. Now is a time to act.
With that in mind, here are five things donors resisting the direction our president is taking America should do:
1. Give generously
Civil rights organizations, public interest litigation groups, investigative reporting outfits, conservation advocates, and social welfare organizations urgently need increased support. Regardless of the mission of your foundation, your track record as a donor, or the legacy you are pursuing, find resources to give to organizations engaging on the issues in today’s news.
2. Focus on impact
Every dollar counts. Our social safety net, the environment, women’s rights, health care, and so much more are at risk. Review your personal donation and foundation grant lists with current and emerging needs in mind. Reduce giving to the organizations you aren’t passionate about or that aren’t achieving impact. Redirect funds to organizations that are stepping up, taking bold action, and providing support to the people and places most in need.
3. Get political
Many of us gave generously to candidates and policy advocacy organizations over the last few years. Keep it up. Foundations can’t write those checks, but individual trustees can. Don’t wait until the next election. Start building the base of political support for candidates and direct advocacy groups that reflect your values now.
4. March, help, run
Financial resources are not the only assets donors have. Your time is also valuable. If people are gathering to voice their opinions, join them. If organizations are no longer getting the support they need to fulfill their missions, volunteer. If you are fed up with your political representatives, run for office. You can start with your neighborhood council, your school board, or another local position. We live in a representative democracy—so represent!
5. Teach your children
Children don’t learn philanthropic values by reading grant requests or attending foundation board meetings. They learn by seeing and doing. Times like these provide teachable moments. Help your kids understand today’s issues, teach them what’s at stake, and show them what it means to be a philanthropic leader. Take them with you on this ride so they are ready to help lead in the future.
At Arabella, it is our great responsibility—and our honor—to support a wide range of donors with different political and social views whose values reflect those of most Americans. As our CEO, Sampriti Ganguli, recently pointed out, philanthropy is now finding its way toward a new future. As it does, the guidance we're now giving donors is really the same guidance we're giving ourselves, our families, and our friends: do all you can to keep our nation and our civil society moving forward, and don’t wait.