Contrary topopular belief, NGOs aren’t completely independent of the political sphere andthe private sector. The separation between the public and private sphere isblurred, in particular when NGOs are funded and supported by privatefoundations9. The influence of power and authority from donors posea challenge to authenticity. NGOs therefore are accountable to their fundersand not to the people they claim to assist.
The flow of capital comes withstrings attached which manifests in the agendas being dictated, simmeringconfrontation into negotiation, depoliticizing resistance and employingmovements to appease funders10. The Tides Foundation claims to guidecorporate foundations to collaborate with NGOs and coalitions in the hopes forsocial justice. However, the Tides Foundation simply sets the stage forcorporations to control and direct NGOs to fulfill their own agendas. The TidesFoundation and its “philanthropy” partners have played a heavy hand in thechanging the discourse amongst NGOs regarding the campaign against the KeystoneXL pipeline. Whofunds Tides Foundation and why? Amajor financer of the Tides Foundation is the Novo Foundation, founded byWarren Buffett. NoVo’s philanthropic initiatives include education, promotinglocal economies and helping Indigenous populations17. As theexclusive donor to the NoVo Foundation, Warren Buffett granted $26 million tothe Tides Foundation from 2003 to 201111.
Similarly, the Bill andMelinda Gates Foundation is philanthropist initiative by one of the richestpeople in the world, that also funnel money into Tides15. The Tides Foundation focuses ongrant-making and entices NGO’s to take shelter under them with incentives suchas coveted benefits and charitable tax-exempt status. They have been reportedto obscure millions of tax-exempt dollars and since they act as the middle manbetween donors and users, it’s very difficult to recognize where the funds arebeing allocated. Their “donor-advising model” allows for donors to funnel moneyfor a cause of their interest, and if no such organization exists, the TidesFoundation will essentially create groups to fulfill their needs15.The richest symbols of capitalism have donated money to the Tides Foundationunder the false guise of philanthropism.
These include the NoVo Foundation,Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller foundation and Ford foundationto just name a few. Although philanthropic foundations as such claim stand forapolitical and selfless advocacy to “get things done”, the wealth and powerexuberated through philanthrocapitalism has negatively affected the non-profitsector. By “donating” millions, these philanthrocapitalist enterprises fund causesthat financially benefit them instead of prioritizing the interests of whomthey claim to help16. When therichest and most powerful people in the world fuel the Tides Foundation,there’s little room for doubt on the strings that are attached with “donations”.Key players that would benefit from the stopping of the Keystone XL pipelinehave their hands deeper in the campaign against pipeline than they lead on.