Judy Pigott has experience in teaching, facilitating and mediating, parenting, volunteering and advocating for communities. Co-author of "Personal Safety Nets," a road-map to gathering and using support and resources to help make strong lives, she’s focused now on family, philanthropy and community engagement. Her goal is to help build a better, more equitable world. Judy is a board member of the Satterberg Foundation. Views expressed are those of the author and do not represent the Satterberg Foundation.
With talk in philanthropic circles about the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and what might help move us all, as a country, toward a more just, sustainable and respectful life, it’s time to ask ourselves what role charitable foundations might play. Well, we could get over ourselves. We, and I speak from a role I’ve held for many years within a family foundation, could start by letting go of a mistaken idea that the dollars we currently control are actually ours. We could see, instead, our task of stewardship as leading toward the creation of equitable access to rights, resources and representation. To act on this, we can:
- Recognize that the financial wealth, IS NOT OUR MONEY – the money no longer belongs to any individual(s), or foundation. It is community property, to be administered for the common good.
- Articulate values, vision and mission – and then follow them. If the reason for establishing a foundation was based on tax avoidance, start over.
- Exercise fiduciary responsibility fully, recognizing that this not only applies to financial decisions, but more importantly, to ethical decisions.
- Ask “who made up the rules for this?” and find out. Then use the values, the vision and the mission to determine a better way.
- Become accustomed to gaining insight and information by centering Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, taking direction from those most impacted by whatever injustice our mission leads us to try to address.
- Acknowledge that current intergenerational wealth exists because of a system based on systemic racism, exercised throughout our history. Recognize that the Founding Fathers (who were white, land owning, literate men) made the rules.
- Admit that their/our wealth was made and accumulated through genocide of Indigenous Peoples, enslavement of African people and through the extractive practices related to many immigrant groups. Foundations have an opportunity to change this narrative.
- Understand not only the history of the charitable sector but also the societal context during the sector’s major developments. For instance, Cami Aurioles – a community-centric fundraising consultant – states that “In the United States, the 501(c)(3) status was enacted in response to a growing mega-wealthy class and the mobilization of community groups during the Civil Rights movement. The formal policies and restrictions that came with c3 status muzzled organizations while giving them a way to fundraise more effectively via tax breaks — a fundamental process of deradicalizing movements.”
- Think of existing in perpetuity as a financial version of hoarding.
- Cease and desist from first using our operating expenses as part of our IRS mandated minimum distribution and increase this minimum distribution to 10% from the current 5%.
- Get ready…for the good of our earth, our people and our future together.
If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that when we understand how marginalizing anyone weakens us all, we can move from fear to action.