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HomeFeatured ContentVu Le on “Funder Fragility” and Unproductive Philanthropic Practice

Vu Le on “Funder Fragility” and Unproductive Philanthropic Practice

Vu Le on “Funder Fragility” and Unproductive Philanthropic Practice

Vu Le knows that his opinions can upset people working in philanthropy, nonprofits, and fundraising.
“We perpetuate the savior complex, the othering of people, poverty tourism,” says the NonProfit AF blogger and executive director of Rainier Valley Corps, a nonprofit in Seattle whose mission is to bring more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector. “I think that everyone means well [but] we really need to examine the issues that we’re trying to address.”
He did this, for example, in a recent blog post drawing parallels between foundation fragility and white fragility. “All these fragilities are problematic because they divert the conversation,” he says.
Le recalls attending a gathering of nonprofit professionals of color that was derailed when a foundation officer took offense to complaints being voiced about philanthropy. Le likens the dismay among grantees and the rush to make the funder feel better to the dynamic that often unfolds when a white person becomes upset for being challenged on racism.
In this podcast, Le also shares his critique of traditional grantmaking, including its tendency to make short-term restricted grants, which disadvantages nonprofit leaders of color and the organizations they champion. He explains why a sense of humor is important when delivering tough truths. And as a nonprofit leader, he has a direct message for funders. “We’re not parasites and freeloaders. We are trying to solve some of the most complex entrenched issues that are out there,” he says. “Trust us to do our job—and do your job by bringing funding.”
Additional Resources
Vu Le: “Hey people with privilege, you need to be OK with making mistakes and being called out.”
“On White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo (International Journal of Critical Pedagogy)
Sally Covington, “Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations” (National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy)
Rob Reich on Tiny Spark: “Is Big Philanthropy Destroying Democracy?”
Anand Giridharadas on Tiny Spark: “Winners Give More As America Loses Out”
Vu Le on Twitter
Featured Image: Vu Le (credit: Sara Bernard)

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