Giving is complex. Who is giving? How are they giving? What culture are they giving from, what cultural expectations do they have, and what culture is the gift being absorbed into? These are some of the questions WINGS participants dealt with at our 3rd Cultures of Giving meeting held in Sao Paulo on March 29, 2016.
We began the meeting by sharing our first experiences with giving. Everyone noted that their earliest experience, whether volunteering, donating money, or giving resources all were influenced by family. If culture is learned, shared, and gives meaning to our reality, as Marcos Kisil shared in his presentation, then it’s safe to say that sharing our various cultures of giving from around the world can only spread awareness and encourage philanthropy.
WINGS Members from the Middle East, Mexico, and Brazil presented and highlighted the many different motivations for giving. Whether for religious reasons, pressure from feeling societally obligated, seeking self-gratification, or any of the other many reasons for giving, everyone in the room agreed we have a long ways to go to solve inequality. This lead into a fascinating discussion on the role of culture and giving on social justice causes and the importance of approaching philanthropy through a social justice lens.
Acknowledged multiple times at the meeting, was the age old problem of how to address inequality if philanthropy is in the hands of the wealthy and educated (who many times, inadvertently or not, influenced the cyclical process of inequality). Using a social justice lens means the giver addresses the various parameters that affect a given community or situation, not just one issue at hand. Current giving actions could have unseen future implications, and using this lens could help address communities’ problems holistically, and before they arise, as WINGS Board Members Ana Toni and Atallah Kuttab highlighted. Introducing this lens creates trust between the giver and the grantee, and ultimately, a sustainable solution.
At the end of the meeting, we tied together our various conversations to conclude that while it will be hard to transfer a social justice lens to our respective cultures of giving, real change starts with those of us in philanthropy. We must deal with the root factors of inequality in our giving and in our philanthropy-advising if we are going to weed out social injustice. Finally, in adopting our social justice lens, and changing our cultures of giving, we must address this narrative positively.