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Trouble in Paradigm: How and Why Philanthropy Models Dysfunction in the Economy, and What To Do About It

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In 2019, corporations and foundations gave nearly 100 billion dollars to support a wide array of causes. In the turmoil of 2020, we saw major gifts including, Jeff Bezos’ $10 billion pledge to fight climate change and Walmart’s $100 million gift towards racial justice. For Clara Miller, who spoke at the Social Impact Lab on November 4, 2020, there’s a big difference between “giving” and “sharing.” From her perspective, “sharing” makes all the difference.

Miller, who has been named seven times to the Nonprofit Times “Power and Influence Top 50” and who founded and led the Nonprofit Finance Fund, has been a leader in “sharing” the wealth. As President of the F. B. Heron Foundation, she helped the institution transition the entire $300 million endowment to mission-related investments, increasing the allocation of mission-aligned capital from 40 percent to 100 percent. Since then, she has called on other institutional philanthropies to follow suit.

According to Miller’s analysis, much of the current philanthropic system is based on a flawed business model. Endowments of billions of dollars are invested through a lens that exclusively considers financial returns, a portion of which will be allocated to grants. While philanthropy shines a light on the grants […]

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