My dad set up a trust fund for me when I was young, with stock from a software company he started. The company ended up making lots of money, and my trust fund grew to about $400,000. By the time I turned 25 and began to receive some money from the trust, I had been actively involved in economic and social justice organizing for years, and had spent a lot of time thinking about class, inheritance and giving. My dad agreed to give me access to 50% of the money in my trust so that I could give it away.
As a donor and as an activist, I've seen the ways that oppressive power structures can play out even in so-called social justice philanthropy, when funders exert too much control over how their donations are used. And I've also seen how productive and transformative it can be when people in positions of power choose to deeply examine their own privilege and align themselves with struggles against oppression and exploitation. (here is an example)
I don’t think of giving away this money as charity, or as “philanthropy” in the traditional sense. I think that for wealthy people, giving money is the least we can do; for most of us, the systems that allow us to accumulate wealth are the same systems that keep most of the world poor.
Privilege can make us so disconnected from hardship that it is easy to step back from struggles that don’t seem to directly affect us – but if we truly believe in social justice, it’s important for us to be active participants in the fight. Money doesn’t cause social justice, activism and organizing do – and giving money is minimally useful when we don’t do the work to challenge the institutionalized power structures that make sure we’re the ones who have that money in the first place.
Dealing with this money has been an ongoing process of talking with my family, understanding kind-of-complicated financial and tax stuff, making compromises (mostly about moving more slowly than I’d like), and getting clear on my own motivations and vision. I’ve been really glad to have this opportunity for honest conversations with my family and community about wealth, class, and giving. I try to share my giving plan as much as possible if people are interested; mostly to start community dialogue and get feedback and provide an example of giving money with a social justice framework. I have felt extremely lucky to be able to support some of the grassroots organizing that I'm most inspired by.
I was initially intimidated by the idea of creating a giving plan, because I wondered how I would ever be able to choose between all of the amazing social justice organizations that I wanted to support. I had been giving smaller amounts somewhat haphazardly for a few years before I began gaining access to my inheritance, but I’d never created a clear plan.
When I finally sat down to do it, it wasn’t as hard as I thought. I made a list of all the organizations I’d given to in the past, and all the organizations I’d always meant to give to. I wanted to give consistent support to these groups, so I added them all to my new, multi-year giving plan.
I wanted my giving plan to reflect a wider range of organizations than the ones I was personally familiar with, so I informally approached several organizers in my extended community whose work I admired and asked them for input. They recommended organizations with whom they shared values and who they saw as allies in their work (I also specifically asked for organizations who had a hard time getting funding from traditional sources), and these organizations also went on my giving plan.
Social justice organizing is a priority for me, so the vast majority of my giving goes to groups that fight the root causes of injustice. I give almost entirely to groups that are led by the communities they are organizing and who are most affected by oppression. These groups include people of color, poor people, queer and trans people, and women. I believe that all forms of oppression are connected, which means that everyone's liberation is also connected, so I support organizations with multi-issue focuses. I also make a point to give to individuals when I can, because I want to live in a world where people support each other on every level and share resources within communities.
As of 2010, I have given away 50% of my inheritance and will donate the rest of the money as I gain access to it. The process of trying to redistribute my inherited wealth has taught me that there are so many ways to give money, and most of them are both useful and challenging in their own ways. I try not to get too caught up in working towards perfection, because there is definitely no perfect or best way to
create a giving plan. I think of giving money as one small facet of my social justice work that hopefully reflects my broader commitment to wealth redistribution, anti-oppression, and grassroots organizing
I try to use my story as an example to inspire other folks with class privilege who believe in social justice. I facilitate workshops about class privilege, funding, and social justice, and I've worked with Resource Generation as an organizer for the Making Money Make Change retreat. It's important to organize privileged folks to leverage privilege and resources and support grassroots movement building. Movements to end racism, poverty, and injustice need all of our skills and passion.
To learn more about Tyrone Boucher's vision and giving plan, visit www.enoughenough.org