Bloomberg Philanthropies recently released its 2014 Annual Update. In it, Mike Bloomberg notes that, "some still see philanthropy as an alternative to government. I see it as a way to embolden government."
This captures the thinking of so many progressive philanthropists. As states and cities become more and more cash-strapped, private philanthropy is stepping in to meet basic needs. This is not a failure of government but rather a failure of government officials and politicians to provide effective resources for citizen's needs.
As Vice-President Joe Biden has said, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value." Too often, we are faced with false choices on budget priorities. A multi-tiered approach is needed. Yes, philathropy can step in to meet short-term needs; it's not helpful to tell a homeless person that the city is working on building more housing when someone can pay for more beds that day. But philanthropists and activists should be encouraged to dive in to the really sexy (ha, ha) task of working with local and state officials to re-think budgets.
Let's elect candidates who will think outside of the box on often antiquated systems, like budgets. Let's embolden local community organizations to explain complex budget negotiations and their consequences to the folks who will be truly effected. And let's think bigger about how and why we give and the impact we can have.