A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Amy’s Story: Using Privilege to Promote Equity

As a white, wealthy person who plays an active role in AMKRF (Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund)’s work, I occupy a unique position, and I am in constant reflection about who I am, how I show up, and the impacts and consequences of our work.

At a personal level, I wrestle with multiple questions. How do I push back against the White savior model of philanthropy? How do I make an ethical shift away from some of the national organizations I’ve funded long term to new local and grassroots efforts? How can I do power differently?

Ongoing questions

At an organizational level, ongoing questions fuel our revisioning work. What are the unintentional consequences of funding social justice efforts with wealth accrued through capitalism? How do we collaborate with community to work in ways that prevent and respond to the harm perpetuated by economic inequality? What do models of reparations have to teach philanthropy? What does truth and reconciliation look like in the philanthropic sector? What does it take to move from transactional funding to transformational funding? In what ways can funder/grantee relationships evolve?

I am learning and growing, and so is AMKRF. Yet, I am grounded by two certainties.

First, I believe that I can leverage my power, utilize my voice, and direct resources to make change. What I learn from folks in my local community has already impacted work at the national level. For example, our work with language justice over the last few years inspired me to be in conversations with national leaders about the lack of accessibility at their events. And I have seen their organizations make changes, which will allow greater participation by those who do not speak the dominant language. It’s this type of impact that I am constantly envisioning and working towards.

Second, I believe there is a moral imperative to redistribute accumulated resources. Tzedakah (the Jewish word from which Tzedek comes) does not translate as charity. It describes an essential practice of showing up in the world, always acting for what is right and just. Charity is built upon the idea that folks who are receiving resources are less than and in need. When I think about our community partners, our Fellows, and who we fund, I do not see folks in need. I see brilliant world changers. Together, we’re working towards a better world for all of us.

Amy Mandel is chief visionary officer of the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund. Her 3-part series “Using Privilege to Promote Equity” was originally published by the Tzedek Social Justice Fellowship. Part 3 is posted here with permission; check out part one here and part two here.

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