Celebrating and Holding the Complexities of National Philanthropy Day
By Jocelyn Wong, Director of Capacity Building and Analyst with the Restorative Economies Fund
Each year, chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) around the world celebrate National Philanthropy Day. This year, AFP Golden Gate recognized Regan Pritzker, co-founder and trustee of Kataly, with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award. Regan delivered an acceptance speech during last Friday’s celebration in which she stated feeling both moved by the honor, but also struck by the complicated nature of receiving such an award, given the historical origins of philanthropy and its longstanding role in perpetuating economic inequalities behind the veneer of generosity.
As Kataly’s Director of Capacity Building and Analyst for our Restorative Economies Fund, I have the great pleasure and privilege of working with our incredible team and movement partners to implement our integrated capital approach, involving grants, investments, and non-financial resources such as coaching and technical assistance. Rather than setting ourselves up to exist in perpetuity — as so many philanthropies do — we aim to work with our grantee partners to determine spendout timeline and process to build cultural, political, and economic power in the Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color best positioned to build a just and equitable world for all of us.
Regan is the first to admit that Kataly’s vision and approach were not entirely of her own making. She routinely expresses gratitude to the many people and organizations who have guided her, from her family to Kataly’s incredible team of movement practitioners, as well as peer funders and movement leaders who have organized her as a donor, educated her politically, and encouraged her to seek out new models and bolder actions.
Before joining Kataly, I worked in various fundraising roles within social justice and movement-building organizations, where I was tasked with being the point of contact for people like Regan. And while I wish I could say that I played a role in educating such donors about the historical and current harms of philanthropy and moved them towards new models like what I am now a part of at Kataly, I instead recall the many cringe-worthy ways in which I was complicit in upholding traditional models of philanthropy. That’s to say I did nothing to develop and organize more “Regans”, and instead, kept people with access to or control over wealth content and comfortable within the status quo. I see now that I was trained to do that, in spite of how antithetical it was to the bigger picture of advancing social justice. There are countless examples from the old systems of fundraising and philanthropy that should be hospiced, from lavish galas, to donor-centric policies (e.g., donor bill of rights), to interfacing with grassroots and mid-level donors in increasingly transactional and automated ways.
Over time, I started referring to myself as a resource mobilizer, as opposed to a fundraiser. I did this as a reminder to myself and others of the transformative ways in which social movements access, coordinate, and make efficient use of a wide range of resources to fuel change. Conventional fundraising wisdom suggests that the role of a fundraiser is to be donor-centric and to move people to give more money. By contrast, the role of a resource mobilizer is to be community-centric and to move people forward in their respective political journeys, with an understanding that where the heart goes, resources will follow.
I progressed in my own political journey, learning from and organizing with various resource mobilization formations, including Old Money, New Systems, Wealth Reclamation Academy of Practitioners, Movement Commons, the Allied Media Conference Resourcing Our Movements Network Gathering, Community-Centric Fundraising, and an emerging collective fund and community of learning and practice called Resource Mobilizers. Part of what we have the privilege and challenge of doing as the resource people within social justice movements is rolling out the welcoming mat to people who just happened to come into the fold by way of a donation. From there, we can choose to invest in these new arrivals and their political journeys. We have the opportunity to cultivate community and empathy across class, race, and other identities. We get to foster a sense of belonging, while also supporting people in navigating their points of privilege in space with others in the movement.
Uprooting the economic inequality that philanthropy has helped entrench requires everyone who controls, directs, or negotiates resources to advance along their own political journeys and evolve their practices. The redistribution of wealth to Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color that have been most harmed by economic inequality, racism, and climate crisis will require philanthropists to evolve — yes — and we also need the resource people in our movements to shift their hearts and minds, such that they can step into their power to educate and mobilize people who benefit from white privilege and generational wealth.
Simply moving more money to our respective 501(c)(3) organizations is not going to result in the change we need. We need to think about other forms of capital, other kinds of formations and entities, other ways of being in relationship with one another across lines of privilege and power. This requires new systems and a level of engagement and education that many fundraisers fail to prioritize. This moment calls on us to think about what it actually means to be a movement-minded resource organizer, to be in collaboration with one another around resources, and to build a deeper bench of people passionate about moving towards collective liberation in this way.
Though complicated indeed, what we at Kataly see as worth celebrating this National Philanthropy Day is this: the largest, most mainstream body of organized fundraising professionals in the world — those in a position to either protect or hospice the old models of fundraising and philanthropy — chose to honor Regan Pritzker, someone who in spite of being thrust into the limelight with this award is centering and ceding wealth and power to Black and Indigenous women, people of color, and queer, feminist leadership on the frontlines.