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In this episode of the Philanthropisms podcast we talk to Derek Bardowell, author of new book Giving Back: How to Do Good, Better, about why our understanding of philanthropy needs to shift from a mindset of charity to one of justice, and what this means for donors and grantmakers.


  • Why is the distinction between charity and justice so important, and what does it mean in practice?
  • Is growing scrutiny of where philanthropic wealth has come from a good thing?
  • What should philanthropic organisations be doing to understand and make amends for any links to historic racial injustices?
  • Does philanthropy have a diversity problem?
  • Are funders more effective when they reflect more closely the people and communities they serve? In what ways can they achieve this?
  • Is racial injustice such a big/cross-cutting issues that it should not be seen as a cause area, but rather as something that is the responsibility of all philanthropic funders and nonprofits?
  • What does this mean in practice for grantmakers? (e.g. supporting more grantees led by BIPOC leaders, promoting more BIPOC employees into positions of authority within foundations, acknowledging where philanthropic assets have been created in ways that exacerbated racial injustice, paying reparations etc?)
  • Is there a danger of philanthropy being paternalistic, with decisions being made about communities rather than by them? How do we avoid this risk?
  • Is the current enthusiasm for social movements reflective of a frustration people have that traditional nonprofits have failed to move the needle on issues such as the climate crisis or racial justice?
  • Does the ability of social movements to be more overtly political, or to employ more challenging tactics (e.g. protest, direct action), give them an advantage over civil society organisations (CSOs) that might be more constrained by legal/regulatory requirements?
  • Is there a danger of “preaching to the choir” about philanthropy reform? I.e. those who engage with the arguments are the ones who always would have “got it” anyway? If so, how do you get these arguments out to a wider audience?

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