The Three P’s — Philanthropy, Power, and People

The Three P’s — Philanthropy, Power, and People

Posted on July 05, 2022 by Rachel Ploss, TPF Fellow 2022/23
Just two weeks into my fellowship with TPF and they sponsored me to attend the Grantmakers in Health (GIH) conference in Miami. What employer sends a brand new employee to a forum that does not directly relate to their work? One that cares about and invests in the people who work for them. The Patterson Foundation knows that I have a personal interest in women's health and philanthropy and gave me this opportunity to build connective tissue because TPF understands that people are the power of philanthropy.

Often, philanthropy is centered on a conversation around money, creating the illusion that money is power. At GIH, we discussed power a lot, and money never came up. What was discussed when it came to power was community. The community has the power, and it is our job, those of us who work in philanthropy, to listen. But, how can we listen effectively? This is the key. Too often, in philanthropy, there are big whats but little hows. Sometimes, we have to focus on the how to achieve the what.

"We must create a safe space for the community to gather, on their time, on their turf, and shift the power to them." Juana Rosa Cavero. This rids us of the power dynamic and allows everyone involved to talk openly, listen, co-collaborate, and, most importantly, co-own that safe space.

At the GIH conference, they added a session on reproductive health in response to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade. As a young woman passionate about women's reproductive health, I went. I half expected it to be a session of outrage and a place where it would be hard to get a word in. However, Osula Evadne Rushing, the Vice President for Program and Strategy at GIH, created a safe space for all of us to co-own and have an engaging conversation. Halfway through, it really set in for me that this was our power — people with different experiences, backgrounds, and passions coming together to have an honest conversation on a hard topic to start to move the needle forward.

This type of conversation is what brings change. I am grateful to GIH for recognizing the need to create that safe space for those of us who were hurting and needed to talk about Roe v Wade. But, I am even more grateful that The Patterson Foundation already demonstrates that the community has the power and strives to create safe spaces for people to be who they are and find out where they are coming from on any issue. Rather than giving grants (the money), TPF strengthens people and communities through meaningful collaboration because money is not its power. When we take the first step to create that safe space with the community, we build trust. That is powerful.

Comments (2)

  • Ploss Patricia

    Ploss Patricia

    14 July 2022 at 16:18 | #

    What a fresh take on how to make actual changes, instead of hollow promises.
    If people feel heard, they feel empowered, and therefore able to put for actual effort to create change.


  • Rachel Hettinger

    Rachel Hettinger

    14 July 2022 at 16:51 | #

    You got it!! And creating those safe spaces for those conversations to begin is the first step!


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