Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Funding Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Cross-posted from The Huffington Post)

Yesterday in the U.S. was Martin Luther King, Jr Day. It was pouring rain in San Francisco, where I wrote this, but the several hundred people I marched with in Dr. King's honor were not deterred by the weather.

I think a lot about foundations and philanthropy and strategy. I've heard others ask, as they reflect on the increasing "professionalism" and "strategy" of today's foundations, if any of these organizations would have funded Dr. King's work in the late 1950s and 1960s?

As I walked and chanted up 3rd Street, I wondered if there were any foundations out there today that would fund Dr. King's 21st Century equivalent? And how would they know who he or she is? We'll all be the better if we can find positive answers to these two questions.

One can argue that the Civil Rights movement was stronger because it was funded from within - from the time and donations and sweat and blood and tears of the people making it happen. I think there is truth in that argument. And I think there should be a role for philanthropic foundations, outsiders, in supporting social movements, civil rights, and social change. Maybe there still can be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that is a provocative question and the answer is probably the same as it was 40 years ago. For most foundations, including most that are self identified as liberal, a resounding NO. From what I understand, to the extent that the Southern Christian Leadership Council was funded, it was a few unions, the national offices of Protestant denominations, and a handful of individuals. I don't think it is any worse today, but certainly not any better.