Activists with Wealth Coming Out of the Closet

Classified.jpg According to a cool book I just learned about entitled, "Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Priviledge and Use It" people of wealth who want to engage for social justice have a hard time overcoming characterizations which paint them as greedy pigs or miserly old men. Instead of divesting themselves of their surely ill-gotten gains, this book encourages them to leverage all of their resources to broader social impact.

The book is written by Karen Pittelman and illustrated by Molly Hein. Pittleman knows whereof she speaks. At 25 she dissolved her $3 million trust fund to co-found the Chahara Foundation, a fund run by and for low-income women activists in Boston. She was also the first program director for Resource Generation which helped to launch the book. Resource Generation is a national non-profit organization that works with young people with wealth who believe in social change.

I was first introduced to the seemingly paradoxical concept of wealth organizing by John Steiner who is currently knee-deep organizing a transpartisan movement. His Reuniting America is working to create a third way between sides that are most often diametrically opposed. (As an example, a recent retreat brought together women leaders as divergent as Joan Blades, Co-founder, and Roberta Combs, Chairperson, Christian Coalition.) PhilanthroMedia will be featuring John in an upcoming episode of "Dialogue for the Discerning Donor" which focuses on intergenerational wealth transfer issues within families. Maybe we can get Karen Pittleman to come out of the wealth closet on our show as well.

Susan Herr

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 16, 2007 in High Net Worth Donors | Intergenerational | Permalink | Comments (1)


The wealthy overcoming their bad public image reminds me of the advice given to John D. Rockefeller by his "pr" advisor. He was told that as he walked down the street to hand out dimes to children so people would think kindly of him. According to one account he switched to nickels during the depression.

Posted by: Bruce Trachtenberg