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Will Philanthropy Change Direction in the Age of Trump?

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Vu Le directs a nonprofit organization. He wrote a bold article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy advising philanthropists to change direction and pay more attention to small organizations that work directly with those in need and cut back on their demands for paperwork, data, and endless documentation.

The nonprofit world woke up last week to a surreal and terrifying new reality, one that must force us all to operate differently. To see our nation choosing walls, divisiveness, xenophobia, and demagoguery over love, hope, diversity, and community is devastating.

The people nonprofits serve felt the pain immediately. We have kids chanting “Build that wall” in school lunchrooms. We have women wearing hijabs being attacked. (Trump supporters have been assaulted as well.) I personally know Latino parents trying to answer their kids’ questions about when they will get deported. Many of my LGBTQ friends and colleagues are in despair.

We cannot just hope it will all be OK. The new presidency threatens to undo all the progress nonprofits have worked so hard to make: progress on climate change, gender equity, marriage equality, support for the poor and homeless, and the push for diversity and inclusion throughout society. Millions of people may lose their health insurance. Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers may be exiled.

As nonprofits work to oppose all the ways in which a Trump presidency threatens the people we serve, we need money and support — and that must come from a new social contract with foundations. Grant makers must end, once and for all, the destructive funding philosophies and practices that have hampered nonprofits’ ability to achieve success.

To face a future that is terrifying to many of us and the people we serve, foundations must think and fund differently.

One thing that most of us know about philanthropies is that they have almost completely abandoned public education. The big three–Gates, Broad, and Walton–are all in for privatization. They think that the public schools that enroll 94% of the children are hopeless. They don’t like public schools. They don’t like unions. They want public schools to operate like businesses. They want them to hire inexperienced and uncredentialed teachers. They micromanage their grants. They overemphasize test scores as the data that shows whether their grantees are successful. They have wrought immeasurable harm on our democratic public system.

After reading this article, I feel moved to write something for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. I don’t know if they will publish it, but it is worth a try.

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