The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

Letter from the Director

Head shot of Susan Eaton, Director of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

Welcome to the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy’s website.

Since its founding in 2008, the Sillerman Center has engaged established and emerging philanthropists and their advisors, undergraduates and graduate students to achieve our mission to inform and advance social justice philanthropy. Since 2015, when I began my tenure as Director, my colleagues and I have worked to align our work with the overarching mission of the Heller School: “Knowledge Advancing Social Justice.” 

When I tell folks about my work at Sillerman and Heller, even some experienced grantmakers have asked me, “What exactly is social justice philanthropy, anyway?” There is no set-in-stone definition. But here are some common characteristics:  

  1. Social justice philanthropy involves the people affected by a social problem in decisions about how to spend money. 
  2. Social justice philanthropy incorporates an understanding of historical injustices in its grantmaking and seeks to attack the root causes of manifest inequalities and contemporary suffering.
  3. Related to #2, social justice philanthropy nurtures relationships with, funds and publicly supports organizers and advocates trying to repair unjust systems, laws, policies and practices.
  4. Social justice philanthropy invests its assets in socially responsible ways that do not contribute to the injustices that grantmaking is trying to remedy.
  5. Social justice philanthropy works to make the philanthropic sector itself more racially, ethnically and culturally diverse, accessible and equitable.

Amid a growing concentration of wealth in our nation, increasing economic inequality and enduring social challenges, philanthropy has, in recent years, faced important critiques, all of which inform our work and help determine the questions we explore. We believe, though, that social justice philanthropy, in particular, has a vital, reparative role to play in our contemporary society. We aspire to be a helpful, collaborative, forward-looking and trusted partner in this necessary work.

I hope you will return to this site again to learn about our upcoming events, to read our latest publications, to sign up for a webinar or to explore our educational and fellowship opportunities. If you are part of the Heller-Brandeis community, please make your way to the 3rd floor and pay us a visit.

Susan Eaton