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Giving Thought Podcast


We talk to Megan Ming Francis about her recent paper and her work on the role of philanthropic funders in supporting the civil rights movement.

Philanthropy, civil rights and movement capture

23 April 2019

In episode 48, Rhodri Davies talks to Megan Ming Francis, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington, about her recent paper “The Price of Civil Rights: Black Lives, White Funding and Movement Capture” and her wider work on the role of philanthropic funders in supporting the civil rights movement. Including:

  • Is “movement capture” something that reflects a deliberate desire on the part of funders to change the goals or strategic focus of grantees, or is it just an inevitable consequence of the power imbalance in the funder/recipient dynamic?
  • Does the legitimacy that funders are able to offer to radical causes add to the power imbalance?
  • Is the imbalance between funder and grantee particularly striking in the case of the NAACP in the early C20th, given the racial division and the background context of Jim Crow?
  • Can grantees be “victims of their own success” if they make headway on radical causes using novel techniques (as the NAACP did on the issues lynching using legal challenges), and funders want to replicate that success on other causes?
  • Is funder ego (i.e. funders wanting to see themselves as “having the answers”) a barrier to getting genuine shifts of power from funders to grantees?
  • Does a spend-down strategy for a foundation impose time constraints that can drive foundation staff to demand a greater degree of say over how money is used?
  • How much of movement capture is due to the overt influence of funders and how much s due to grantees tailoring applications or plans based on their perception of funders’ priorities and preferences?
  • Where else in the history of philanthropy should we look for other examples of movement capture?
  • Informal networks and movements are less likely to keep archives or records than institutional funders: is there a danger that this asymmetry will make it harder to assess other instances of movement capture?
  • In a modern context where there is an increasing emphasis on networked social movements to drive change, and interest from funders in how to support them, do we need to be particularly aware of the dangers of movement capture?
  • Are looser, non-hierarchical network-based organisations more likely to be susceptible to movement capture than those with some modicum of structure?
  • What value can a historical perspective bring to philanthropists, funders and non-profit professionals?
  • Are there limits to the utility of historical comparison in understanding the present? What should we take into account or be aware of?


Megan Ming Francis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington (UW).

About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society.  Since launching in May 2017, the podcast has become recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate. 

In each episode Rhodri Davies, Director of our Giving Thought Think Tank, and guests, take a contemporary issue in philanthropy and civil society and break it down into three manageable chunks, giving an overview of the extensive work they have done on the subject.  Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



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