On Allyship and Activism in Philanthropy

Tuti Scott
5 min readSep 7, 2023


Photo from https://www.aclu.org/news/racial-justice/ending-systemic-racism-requires-ensuring-systemic-equality

Despite the backlash we’re seeing against Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging work in the U.S., I continue to feel a sense of urgency in addressing racism and racial inequity. I still believe that progress is possible, and I want to harness my energy to help build a society that actually addresses racial inequity. I want to do whatever I can to help shape a new narrative about equity and justice and ideally, inspire others to get engaged where it works for them.

I know we can organize multi-sector, cross-racial, social, economic, and across political divides because I have seen it happen with the women’s sports movement, March for Our Lives (youth led gun control movement), #MeToo, End Human Trafficking, and more. We can create worker collaboratives, address the childcare crisis, protect the rights of farm workers, invest in the care economy, and make sure there are enough resources for all to thrive.

In the “making money moves that matter” space where I work and play, we must agree on the definition and implications of systemic racism. We must change mindsets, beliefs, and practices. And as funders, leaders/practitioners, and citizens, we must explore every day what we can do now to dismantle systemic racism and replace it with equal, and yes, equitable opportunity.

In philanthropy, there are not enough actions mirroring the words of our racial equity commitments. After George Floyd’s murder, $32 billion in pledges were made by the banks and Representative Ayanna Presley is asking for accountability. We must continue to have discussions on power and privilege and then back those conversations up with actions.

When I examine my privileges and what I think it means to be an anti-racist leader, my actions are to look at a) the leadership, b) who is speaking, and c) who gets to ask questions. I try to ask Black Indigenous people of color leaders what supports they may need, follow their leadership, and invite other white people of privilege to learn how to be antiracist. I try to figure out who is not in the room (and why), what questions are not being asked, and be more demonstrative in my own actions as a model for other white people.

In my dreams right now, many more of us are investing in women of color and queer/lesbian women+, especially former competitive athletes, to build whatever sustainable entrepreneurship opportunity they want. More millionaires and billionaires are mimicking MacKenzie Scott’s portfolio and giving generous unrestricted, trust-based gifts. And collectively, we’re funding the systems change we want to see as well as the narrative and culture change that movement builders are out there leading such as Favianna Rodriguez and The Center for Cultural Power.

In our organizations and our communities, we are acknowledging the wealth gap and the structural blockages to asset building (tax code, housing and mortgage discrimination, historical occupational segregation) for Black and Brown people. Addressing systemic racism means we must examine the laws and policies that can advance equity, whether that’s in sports, equal pay, politics, lesbian rights… my life’s work.

What if we could hold high net worth givers such as the members of The Giving Pledge to standards of how they fund movements and systems change, apply and track a racial and gender lens in their giving, and document these actions in their annual report? This could be done in the same way that Charity Navigator monitors and ranks the “efficiency” of nonprofits. How fabulous if we had loving accountability and education to monitor the efficiency of funders around giving money to movement builders?

And while all of this dreaming is good, and hope is a form of planning as Gloria Steinem reminds us, so much of this work comes back to knowing where one personally stands in this movement. For me,

  • I commit to remembering this journey toward racial justice is not about me.
  • I follow #BlackWomenExcellence who use humor, grace, courage, and patience as we work together for justice.
  • I speak freely about money and funding women+ leaders, particularly Black and Brown women leaders and LGBTQ+ leaders, working through my own internalized shame from “coming out” on jumping class AND navigating social norms on gender, class, and sexuality.
  • I recognize my privilege as a white person of European origin with an able body. I recognize the privilege of having a credentialed education and having a command of the English language.
  • It is my faith to show up fully living my values, so I work daily to nurture, nourish, and balance my body, mind, and spirit.
  • I look forward to more spaces and situations where I am a minority among Black, Indigenous, and LatinX people.
  • I commit to the unending task of working on myself as an activist. I acknowledge my flaws for being too quick to act and speak versus being curious and inquisitive. I look forward to continuing to grow.
  • I know that I have bias towards men who have consumed the negative hypermasculine effects of our culture and am grateful to the gentlemen colleagues who have opened my mind and soul to what they have endured and how they work to push against the herd mentality.

The structural systems we live in worry and challenge my heart…literally! I feel great empathy and am angered by structural racism, and I continue to be infuriated by the miseducation that I received about the true history of our country. I recognize that communities of Black Indigenous and people of color are marginalized by multiple oppressions, and this is not right. My privilege means that I get to be an ally for these groups of humans because there must be an end to the centuries of terror, enslavement, violence, and killings and a rewriting of the structural policies that keep us all from living and thriving with dignity.

I want to continue to write about allyship because it’s part of my activism. I hope someday, but I doubt it, to be comfortable in a physical protest space, but I commend others who do this work. I commit to continuing to have one on one conversations with people in my life about structural racism and how to be an antiracist leader and human being. I know I will continue to grow by listening, learning, and asking brave questions while making humble mistakes myself.

I will continue to believe change is possible, again, because I’ve seen it before. Let’s never stop telling stories of Audre Lorde and the beliefs of the Combahee River Collective Statement, the organizing power of Delores Huertas, Pauli Murray’s work on sex discrimination, etc. We need these stories from history as they keep us all going.



Tuti Scott

Strategic philanthropy & investing consultant. Convening conversations on women, money, justice, and power. Lifelong athlete, feminist, and gender avenger.