A pre-conference meeting preceded the opening welcome panel, and already the contradictions and challenges of defining ‘community philanthropy’ have come to the fore. The organizers of Edge Funders’ Just Giving Conference in Berkeley, CA, to be held 29 April to 1 May, called for a caucus of ‘non-funder’ conference attendees. Slowly, as the word spread, the small room filled up with an exciting mix of climate justice activists, food sovereignty advocates, indigenous leaders and others.
It made sense to me that folks who aren’t donors might have unique needs to fully benefit from a meeting primarily composed of grantmakers, but I am not sure whether or not Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation, is a ‘funder’ or not. One could say that Dalia is a funder. Dalia is a community foundation. Dalia gives grants. On the other hand, Dalia is not a donor. We aren’t ‘giving’ ‘our’ ‘money’ to others. We are ‘mobilizing’ ‘collective’ ‘resources’ for ‘communities’ to use because it is their ‘right’.
As the conversation goes on, I’m realizing that the concept of ‘philanthropy’ that is being used is perhaps unclear, or perhaps I don’t agree with it, or perhaps it is in transition. Are the ones who give money ‘philanthropists’ and the ones who give time, expertise, sweat, ideas and passion merely ‘receivers’? I take the risk to raise this question and it is warmly received, embraced actually. One guy says that all the resources that funders have were actually stolen from others, and that even funders who recognize the need for massive social transformation may not acknowledge that philanthropy too much change. We’re all in process. What a very exciting conversation …
Nora Lester Murad is a writer and volunteer with Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation.