Philanthropic donors and organizations offer aid to address the most pressing issues facing society. Recent events have exposed the need to examine the field to ensure that it is not perpetuating the issues that it endeavors to resolve. Is the field of philanthropy equitable and agile enough to address community needs appropriately? Does philanthropy amplify the voices of those who are most affected by the issue areas? 

These questions are not easily answered and embody a desire to “decolonize philanthropy,” a phrase introduced and explored by activist and writer Edgar Villanueva. Decolonizing philanthropy is a concept that requires philanthropists and institutions to examine their roles in perpetuating the very issues that they aim to resolve. It also demands that philanthropies bring into question the history upon which they were founded.

Wagner Philanthropy and Wagner Review are partnering to create a call for proposals. We invite you to write a (maximum) 2-page policy memo that proposes some ways in which we can decolonize philanthropy. While we invite students, professors, alumni, administrators, and practitioners to consider the following prompts below, it is not mandatory to follow them. You may write on any topics within the scope of the question as you’d like. 

  • How can philanthropies alter existing practices to create more inclusive and sustainable grantmaking? What are the biggest challenges facing funders and nonprofits and how can we develop a more successful and effective system? What are some policies to address this?
  • How can philanthropies bring into question the inherent power imbalances within the sector and reimagine them? What policies can be made to encourage foundations to develop more trusting, transparent, and inclusive funder-nonprofit relationships?
  • How can philanthropies better integrate local leaders in their decision making without overburdening them or slowing the pace at which the donors distribute what is often much-needed aid?
  • How can philanthropies encourage nonprofit organizations to collaborate rather than compete? Oftentimes funding is competitive and organizations with similar missions are hesitant to collaborate in fear of competition. What are some ways of addressing this?
  • Many philanthropies require long and arduous applications and reports. Without having the bandwidth or capacity for the necessary internal structures, small and under-resourced organizations and communities often struggle to complete them. How can philanthropies remove barriers?

Proposals may be submitted here by Friday, March 25th.

Current students may be invited to present their proposal at the Wagner Review Policy Conference on Friday, April 29th.

Other requirements and important notes:

  • *Each piece most have a unique policy proposal (the policy may be at the federal, state, local level, or you can take a more micro-approach by recommending policies for philanthropy practitioners)
  • There may be multiple authors on any piece

About the student groups:

Wagner Review: NYU Wagner Review is the student-run academic journal of the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. NYU Wagner Review promotes dialogue on a wide range of issues related to public service by publishing original peer-reviewed research, scholarship, and commentary from a diverse group of students and alumni that reflects the academic programs offered and scholarly research conducted at NYU Wagner.

Wagner Philanthropy: Wagner Philanthropy is committed to engaging students in both grantmaking and fundraising, through the lens of public service. By organizing interesting and innovative educational and networking programs, we hope to raise awareness of:

  1. the impact philanthropy has on nonprofit organizations and the broader public and private sectors,
  2. career paths public servants might take in the fundraising or grantmaking fields, and
  3. the importance of personal philanthropy in pursuing meaningful social change.

We also aim to provide opportunities for Wagner students to build practical skills related to grantmaking and fundraising that may benefit students professionally or personally. We seek to engage other Wagner student groups in the topic of philanthropy in order to understand the nuances and challenges of philanthropy across different contexts. We also strive to build a stronger connection between Wagner and the philanthropic community in New York City in order to broaden our knowledge of these areas and expand students’ professional networks.