Benjamin Soskis’s July 2 Outlook essay, “Can old-fashioned charity do better than philanthropy?,” included keen insights into a major dilemma of modern philanthropy. I have been a board member of a foundation for more than three decades and am active in the local philanthropic community. I believe my colleagues in this field are some of the smartest and most committed people anywhere.
I am also painfully aware of our limitations to effect — with grants or otherwise — the kind of lasting systemic change we desire in society at large. On the other hand, I am certain that a person’s life can be changed for the better when he or she receives help at a critical time. Doing good does change things. The trouble is, things don’t necessarily stay changed. Circumstances, public policy and chance all have a way of undermining people who are struggling to begin with. Perhaps we in philanthropy should pay more attention to the “here and now” and give people more opportunities to do good things for themselves.
Wilton Corkern, Lusby
The writer is a board member of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and a trustee of the Corina Higginson Trust.