Scary Times: Foundations, Trumpism, and the Fear Factor

Monday, February 6, 2017

It took a bit of time, but foundation leaders—some of them, anyway—are now speaking out against the Trump administration’s executive orders banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim countries. 

On Friday, more than 50 leaders from philanthropy released a joint public statement that criticizes Trump’s executive orders for comprising “our nation’s founding principles and the Constitution, our standing in the world, and our core values of liberty, justice, and due process.”

Last week, several foundation presidents also spoke out through blog posts, including Grant Oliphant at Heinz Endowments and Don Howard of the Irvine Foundation.

On Thursday, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a $500,000 grant to the ACLU, tweeting: “When our core values—diversity, pluralism & respect for all—are threatened we will respond.” (Update: On Tuesday, Rockefeller also announced a $500,000 gift to the Anti-Defamation League to "support immigrants, refugees and our ideals," it said in a tweet.)

The joint statement by philanthropy leaders was coordinated by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR), which had begun a discussion with its members after the election about taking a public stance against Trump’s immigration policies. Some funders were keen to have their funding strategies in place and get the timing right before signing on to any statement. But Daranee Petsod, GCIR’s president, told me that the executive orders issued on January 27 changed everything, thrusting this issue onto the front burner.  

When GCIR started circulating a joint statement last week, Petsod was heartened by some of the funders who stepped forward to sign on, including foundations that are not members of GCIR. “This is really about values.” In particular, she said, the “impact of the executive order on lawful permanent residents was a wake-up call for many funders.” More broadly, the sense among funders signing on was that this was “such a defining and unusual moment.” Petsod also said that for most of the signatories “it’s about standing with their grantees.” 

Efforts are still underway to get...

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