October 3, 2023 - 10:00 am

Value Alignment and Reputational Risk

Philanthropy Massachusetts session

Throughout its history, philanthropy has been a critical partner in developing sustainable solutions to challenging social problems and addressing the needs of society’s most vulnerable. However, as politics and culture become increasingly polarized in the contemporary moment, philanthropy finds itself at the intersection of competing, even antagonistic, stakeholder interests. Previously innocuous areas such as immigration, civil rights, and even ESG investing—in which philanthropy has long played a leading role—have now become cultural and political lightning rods.

So how do philanthropic institutions navigate this new challenge? For community foundations and other DAF holders, how are donor intent and discretionary grantmaking balanced? For corporate funders how are employee grant matching programs aligned with the company’s own social and cultural commitments? Even private foundations struggle to align the competing interests of their founders and trustees.

Over the last three years, the Horizon Forum, a fiscally sponsored project at the Proteus Fund, has been at the forefront of these questions, helping foundations address the problem of hate, extremist, and xenophobic funding. By providing policy development, due diligence, and communications support, dozens of foundations have begun building an infrastructure to ensure their organizations missions, values, and grantmaking are aligned and hate-free. During this discussion, we will hear from the Horizon Forum on how philanthropic actors across the country are approaching the challenges of the new political and cultural moment. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of potential pitfalls, safeguards that can be implemented, and strategies for resolving values misalignment when it arises.