Parent-choice activists who recently protested U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s gutting of charter schools in her education plan have been “accused” of being supported by conservative philanthropic dollars—as if those proponents’ principles were purchasable. Insulting to them, really.
Former New York City Mayor, media mogul, and philanthropist himself Mike Bloomberg enters the presidential race and it seems widely and automatically assumed that his megabillion-dollar worth itself will net him the support of Democrat Party primary voters—as if they, too, were pliable and buyable. Degrading of them, actually.
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s first president, Mike Joyce, was always cautious of grant applicants who seemed willing to alter their request to better suit the would-be funder. To him, that was actually evidence they shouldn’t be given support.
The choice activists were and are going to speak up for increased educational options either way. Democrat primary voters are going to support whomever they want after evaluating their options, and right now billionaire Bloomberg is polling at about six percent. Rich guy Tom Steyer is lower. Republican President Donald Trump, by the way, won his nomination over many other, very much better-funded opponents.
I worked at Bradley for more than three decades. We couldn’t and didn’t support any candidates, of course, but we sure helped parent-choice agitators, along with those similarly at work in passionate pursuit of other causes. Transactionalism in giving like this is far overrated, I think we found. While often helpful, of course, mere money doesn’t motivate. Usually, transcendent principles of one kind or another move people to act. Tritely, transcendence trumps transactionalism.
Transactionalism can be dangerously distracting, too, risking mission-muddling mislabeling and thus then also thinness of thought. Charity has to be called strategic philanthropy. Grants should be considered investments. Mundane meetings and conferences are convenings. Giving is really a business, or should at least be thought of more in that way. Where are the results, and how long are we going to wait for them? No, wait, this is actually politics, or we should at least be more cognizant of the electoral calendar. When are we going to win? I mean, let’s get real here.
For real people, however, principles and purpose make for “pilgrimages,” which almost always require patience. Good grantees are on their own Camino de Santiago, like the parents protesting Warren’s plan. Good grantors should quietly walk with them, maybe securing better shoes and meals to eat on the way.
Remaining realistic, pilgrimages do require some funding of course. Busloads of protestors need gas and in the separate political context, campaign offices have to pay light bills. It’d be better, though, if givers were at least attitudinally—and non-overbearingly—on the same journey with their grantees. Humbly respectful of them, actually, and their dignity. With the same patience to get to the destination.