For many of us in philanthropy, this feels like a different nation than it did just a few weeks ago, and the feeling is likely to persist; the United States will certainly undergo profound changes in the years ahead as the presidency
of Donald Trump unfolds.
The big question we face is, How should philanthropy adapt? Most urgently, it will have to perform triage. The policies pushed by the Trump administration,
although we can only guess at them now, will likely have drastic
consequences in the realms of women’s health, health care in general, civil rights, environmental protection, and social welfare.
Nonprofits, with support from foundations and other donors,
will have their work cut out for them: replacing cut governmental services; helping the most vulnerable navigate the altered
landscape; calling out and guarding against violations of rights;
monitoring and attempting to beat back the rise of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism; charting the effects of Mr.
Trump’s policies and pushing alternate ones.
Amid all this work, people in philanthropy will need to reconcile two conflicting impulses, one that suggests a degree of
reconciliation to the forces that brought us President Trump and
the other a measure of resistance.
The political elite of both parties clearly did not understand the
worldview — the beliefs, the hopes, and, mostly, the resentments
— of large swaths of the citizenry, especially the white working
class. Much the same can be said of the philan-
thropic elite. As a funding area, philanthropy has
largely ignored the dislocations caused by global
trade, which served as one of Mr. Trump’s defining
issues. Foundations have neglected rural commu-
nities, a bastion of
From the per-
spective on the other side of the
chasm, it’s now clearer than ever
how deeply many Americans
mistrust the technocratic and
professional classes in which most
philanthropic leaders are situat-
ed. The populism that boosted Mr.
Trump regards Big Philanthropy
with similar contempt as it does
While legitimate concerns over access to power provided the kindling for the conflagration surrounding the Clinton Foundation, a suspicion that much liberal do-gooderism was simply a mask for self-serving interests fanned the flames. Philanthropy and government both rep-
DAVE CU TLER, FOR THE CHRONICLE
Historian of philanthropy at
George Mason University
Continued on Page 18
need a new
the game on
and more 22
The nonprofit elite failed to
Can Philanthropy Adapt to Trump’s America?
notice the resentment of a
wide swath of Americans.
Now it’s time for triage.