Following Mr. Walker’s call for a 21st Century Gospel of Wealth, Ford Foundation committed $1 billion of its endowment over 10 years to impact investing, hoping to create both market-rate financial returns and social benefits. The commitment was justifiably applauded, for both its ambition and intent, and served as an inspiration to foundations, philanthropists, and investors across the world.
Our self-awareness — our humility — shouldn’t be limited to examining the problems. It should include the structures of solutions, like giving itself. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said not long before his assassination, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” It is, after all, an offspring of the free market; it is enabled by returns on capital.