Philanthropy tends to be a sleepy province. Foundations famously take their time charting new directions and aren’t known for risk taking. But Donald Trump’s surprise election victory in 2016 set alarm bells ringing in this staid world like no other event in recent memory.
Within weeks of Election Day, foundations had begun rolling out rapid-response funds on abortion access, civil liberties, climate change, immigrant rights, investigative journalism, LGBTQ rights, and more. Last August, the Chronicle of Philanthropy estimated that foundations had committed over $700 million to counter what they have judged to be the top threats posed by Trump’s presidency.
Somehow, though, philanthropy has overlooked what may be the single greatest danger posed by Trump: that he will start a war. There have been no big funding initiatives on peace and security, despite the obvious perils of having an inexperienced, hot-headed commander in chief at a time of international tension, as Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement recently highlighted.
“It’s lonely out here,” said Stephen Del Rosso, a director at the Carnegie Corporation, one of the handful of top foundations that still funds work on war and peace. Del Rosso added that he’s observed a “retraction of funding” over the past 20 years in this area. John Tierney, executive director of the Council for a Livable World, said, “People have a sense of complacency.”