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The Drawbacks of Woke Philanthropy

The Drawbacks of Woke Philanthropy

by Bill High

No doubt you’ve heard about “woke” this and that. I’ve watched developments in the world of “woke capitalism” with concern, especially as that movement spills over into the world of philanthropy and giving.

Natalie Schaefer Riley wrote on this topic last summer in the Wall Street Journal in “The Woke Threat to Philanthrophy.”

Riley notes that “woke philanthropy” is similar to “woke capitalism” in that “activists want to tell you not only how to make your money but how to give it away.”

Riley cites as an example the pressure faced by the Philanthropy Roundtable. Riley interviewed Elise Westhoff, president of the Roundtable, who says: “Donors have faced intimidation and threats of violence simply for supporting causes they believe in… .” She says that the Roundtable has been encouraged to distance themselves from donors and push them off boards.

Westhoff also notes the calls over the last several years for abolishing donor privacy and pushes back: “There are many legitimate reasons donors may not want to publicly disclose charitable gifts,” she says, “including religious beliefs and a desire for personal privacy”—and, most of all, “fear of retaliation.”

Riley notes there have also been increased calls to have the government direct the flow of charitable dollars. In response, Westhoff says:

“To suggest that somehow because you get a deduction, now the government gets to tell you everything about it is misguided, and is not true in other parts of the tax code.”

Riley gives the example of deducting the interest from mortgage taken out to remodel one’s house. While granting the deduction, the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t get to vet your architect.

What would be the effect of government directing philanthropy? In the article, Westhoff points out that during the early days of the pandemic, as the government floundered for solutions, philanthropic organizations flourished and were able to provide creative solutions and aid to those in need—quickly.

What do you think? What is the proper role of government in regulating the world of charitable giving?


Photo by Damir Kopezhanov on Unsplash

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Published January 17, 2022

Topics: Culture Commentary

American ValuesChristian PhilanthropyDonorsMajor Donors

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