We’ve Been Here Before, But Now We Know Where We Are

Thursday, November 17, 2016

We’ve Been Here Before, But Now We Know Where We Are
by Michael Hamill Remaley, SVP, Public Policy & Communications
This piece was originally published as the feature article of the November 2016 issue of the New York PhilanthroPost Policy Edition.

Philanthropy New York does not engage in electoral politics. “Period. Full Stop.” (As someone I greatly respect likes to say.)

The election is over, and now America is facing a whole lot of change.  What haven’t changed are the mission and values of Philanthropy New York. Our vision is to “serve as a connector of people, institutions, ideas and resources, as well as a catalyst for advocacy and action for change.” Our core values include integrity, impact, transparency and accountability, collaboration and partnership, and – perhaps most important in this era – inclusion. “We value the full participation of communities and individuals and embrace the many forms of diversity, including, but not limited to, ethnic, cultural, racial, religious, sexual orientation, economic status, physical ability, and gender as we draw from the perspectives, opinions and experiences of a broad cross-section of people. We consider this participation essential for the best quality work as well as a fair and just society.” Philanthropy New York will continue to use these values to guide all that we do. 

One of the truths we need to recognize is that the voting blocs of this election are essentially the same as those of the 2000 election. Our nation has a very long history of veering from one party to the next and from a more liberal to a more conservative point of view. Racism, misogyny and xenophobia have always been definitional, if unspoken, elements of our politics and our institutional exercise of power.  

A difference, however, from 2000, is that the philanthropic sector is much more aware of what happens when it fails to engage in policy.  One of the reasons, I believe, that philanthropy came to this realization is that it saw just how deeply the nonprofit sector it supports has been damaged by the ongoing effects of tax cuts at the federal and state level, thus severely compromising the ability of the sector to make progress on the many issues philanthropy is dedicated to improving. We know that federal and state issues outside of policies directly affecting the operations of foundations can have a profound effect on the nonprofit sector and the ability of foundations to do their work. 

Related to PNY’s recent work developing its next five-year strategic plan, the Board and Public Policy Committee have been working to clarify the parameters of its public policy work.  It is important for members to know that the issues on which we will take official policy stands will only be those directly impacting the philanthropic sector, or indirectly impacting philanthropy by broadly impacting the nonprofit sector. 

We will continue to support groups of our members who work together around the substantive  issues they care deeply about.  For example, in 2013, Philanthropy New York supported the efforts of 16 funders that came together under the mantle of the Education Funders Research Initiative, which eventually led those funders to issue “Six Priorities” for advancing education reform in New York City. 

We are already hearing from PNY members who are working on issues such as  education, health, gender justice and criminal justice reform and want to collaborate with other funders.  There will be more about these issues in the coming months.   Additionally, we have started collecting information about programs and activities members and groups are putting on our website called “Post-Election: Philanthropy Prepares for Change.” Check it out.

Together, we will work to advance our core values. You know where we are, and we are here for you.

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