Reflecting on the 2023 Philanthropy Series

By Catherine Gelband

Each session of the 2023 Philanthropy Series caused me to reflect upon how I make philanthropic decisions and challenged me to examine long held assumptions. What an engaging learning opportunity! After some personal reflection, I am happy to share some key takeaways, in the hopes that we continue this conversation as a community.

 In considering financial investments as an opportunity to create long term change, I was encouraged to not readily dismiss the impact my investment decisions have. I appreciated the many ways the panelists framed our investment decisions as opportunities and how we can see our investments as instruments that support or undermine social change. Each decision and interaction with our personal wealth is an opportunity for reflection. 

In thinking about ways to involve ourselves with communities of color, I was challenged to step back and think about what I was bringing to the community, the expectations I had and whether I was the right person to play any role. That was challenging.  I want to use my philanthropy for impact and so being asked to stop and reflect felt like it could be an impediment to that goal. I was challenged to take my ego out of my philanthropic decisions and to question any assumptions that are not grounded in an understanding of a community’s need. When my support is welcome, its impact will be greater, and perhaps less problematic. 

Reckoning with my own wealth and its history is an ongoing reflection. There is no bright line to follow in addressing repair and reparations. I was encouraged to name the assumptions I have absorbed as truth—meritocracy, alleged lack of opportunities for my own ancestors and a foundational belief that the size of my inherited wealth comparatively makes the exercise less important for me. These are all roadblocks to accepting that my ancestral and individual wealth creates a responsibility to participate in this important conversation and to start the journey to reparation. I appreciated the honesty of the panelists as they described their own journeys. 

Once again, I am struck that WaWF is creating educational opportunities that create reflection and cause me to reimagine my own responsibility and power.  

I was deeply impacted by the message from every speaker that I need to approach these issues with humility and patience for my own blind spots. Yet also, to always embrace the opportunity to act albeit as a humble learner. I invite you to join us in learning more together!

Revisit the entire 2023 Philanthropy Series below:

How to Build Your Giving Plan

Solidarity As An Action

Values Aligned Investing

A Critical Lens on Donor Advised Funds

Donor Perspectives on Reparations

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