Philanthropy Foundations and philanthropists have the power and the means to challenge or to perpetuate classism.  Given the intermingling of people from a variety of class situations – trustees, donors, staff, grantees – through the daily work of philanthropy, foundations are a great setting in which to address classism and to build cross-class relationships.

In our work in this sector during the past few years, we have discovered that few foundations have made the time and/or space to reflect on the impact of classism on their work.  When they do, they find the process invaluable. Class Action is providing the framework and opportunity for foundations to begin this critical conversation.

Everything we do is involved with class issues; I can’t believe we’ve never talked about it before now.

Program Officer San Francisco Foundation

Some points we consider with foundation staff and Board:

  • How do we look at the impact of classism within the organizations we fund and the movements that we hope to catalyze?
  • How can we ensure that our processes for raising and distributing funds are free of classism?
  • What are the best practices in philanthropy to address class internally and externally?
  • How does building cross-class alliances help foundations be more effective and open to the full breadth of employees and donors?

This process offers reflection on how to talk about, and how the philanthropic sector can better address, the causes and consequences of growing economic inequality.

In addition to organizational consulting, training, and workshops for individual foundations, Class Action is bringing the conversation to the broader foundation community. For example, Class Action is organizing a breakfast meeting for NY-based funders to be held at the North Star Fund in January 2009. Additionally, we will present on the impact of class in philanthropy at the Council on Foundations 2009 Annual Conference.