To the Editor:

In his May 4, 2023, opinion piece, “What Was the Philanthropic Pluralism Manifesto Really About?,” Craig Kennedy attempts to cast doubt on Philanthropy Roundtable’s longstanding values of liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility and questions our principled and steadfast approach in support of philanthropic freedom. Ironically, supporting philanthropic freedom means supporting Kennedy’s right to voice his concerns and critiques of others in the field.

The diversity of the causes, communities, and missions that philanthropy funds reflects the diversity of our great nation. There are so many needs in this country — all worthy should a donor choose to invest in them. That is the kind of pluralism Philanthropy Roundtable supports, and has supported, since the organization’s earliest days.
The values shared by the Philanthropy Roundtable community are not neutral, and we haven’t refrained from publicly expressing this fact. Writing in USA Today, our president and CEO, Elise Westhoff, noted that the organization’s values often conflict with those of others in philanthropy:

“At its best, philanthropy has given people the tools and resources they need to succeed. It enables people to rise together with the help of communities and private generosity. Yet the turn toward government-driven efforts sends a completely different message. It implicitly says people who are struggling have little chance of rising without public intervention. This is a deeply impersonal and even hopeless message, compared with philanthropy’s more productive role of fostering personal trust and unlocking individual ability.”

Philanthropy Roundtable’s mission has not changed. We will continue to foster excellence in the field, protect philanthropic freedom, and help donors advance liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility through effective charitable giving.


The Roundtable, for example, has long supported philanthropists working to alleviate poverty through community and faith-based approaches. Although poverty is primarily defined by a lack of physical resources, multiple nuanced and often interlinked factors are also at play. We’ve started a storytelling initiative to highlight the important work in this area supported by philanthropy and launched an opportunity playbook that focuses on how education, workforce development, and poverty alleviation create pathways to opportunity.

Thousands of charitable organizations are working on a wide range of approaches to address societal challenges. Real progress requires an environment where new ideas are welcomed, debated, and tested — not silenced. When we at the Roundtable see public policy that would restrict that freedom, we speak out against it. Arguing, as Kennedy does, that an op-ed written by several philanthropy leaders, including Westhoff, is a veiled attempt at policy advocacy suggests he may not have understood the essence of the piece.

So, let’s be clear: We support a healthy, diverse field that embraces a wide variety of solutions to problems. This is just one way we remain true to our vision to build and sustain a vibrant American philanthropic movement that strengthens our free society.

Even during turbulent times and amid growing polarization, Philanthropy Roundtable remains a principled and staunch advocate for philanthropic freedom.

Joanne Florino
Adam Meyerson Distinguished Fellow in Philanthropic Excellence


Philanthropy Roundtable