National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Shakes Up Staff for New Focus

Monday, October 14, 2019

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is shaking up its staff to get the organization in a better position for its new focus on urging foundations and individual donors to steer money to grassroots movements.

The group laid off three staff members and is seeking to fill three newly created positions, including chief operating officer, with the goal of building relationships with movement groups.

The changes are part of a 10-year strategy drawn up during the 2016 election cycle that placed an emphasis on supporting "people and opportunities with the least wealth, power, and opportunity."

The strategy was devised before the election of Donald Trump. However, Aaron Dorfman, the group’s CEO, said Trump’s rise — and the threat Dorfman felt the administration posed for groups that support immigrants, the poor, people of color, and LGBTQ groups — made increased support for those movements a more urgent priority.

"Most of the funding goes to highly professionalized white-led organizations, and very little support is going to grassroots organizations led by communities most affected by unjust public policies," Dorfman says. "We’ve seen bigger wins when there were really scrappy grassroots movement-type organizations" working alongside professional advocacy groups.

Power Moves

Previously, the organization was more of a traditional foundation watchdog, working on behalf of nonprofits that seek support from grant makers.

Since the new strategy was put in place, the committee has suspended its Philamplify project, which sought to provide "unvarnished critical feedback" on foundation operations.

Recent work includes "Power Moves," a guide for grant makers to assess how they wield power in relationship to grantees. This year, the committee released an assessment of grant making in support of immigrants. Dorfman said future projects will explore pro-immigrant grant making in certain regions, to be named later, and studies of philanthropic support of other causes, which have yet to be named.

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