“Educating and Agitating.” Six Questions for Alice Y. Hom, Executive Director at CHANGE Philanthropy

Alice Y. Hom. Photo by Kanan Gole.

In 2023, CHANGE Philanthropy, a coalition of 10 philanthropic-serving organizations challenging the sector to advance equity, welcomed Alice Y. Hom, Ph.D., as executive director.

Partners in the coalition include Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), ABFE (a philanthropic partnership for Black communities), Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), Women’s Funding Network (WFN), National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) and the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE).

CHANGE Philanthropy advocates within the sector with an intersectional approach. In 2023, CHANGE Philanthropy gathered 1,200 movement organizers and sector members in Los Angeles, and a few hundred virtually, for their Unity Summit. CHANGE Philanthropy also organizes the Diversity Among Philanthropic Professionals Survey & Report to help the sector understand its workforce and leadership. 

Born in Los Angeles, Hom received their bachelor of arts in American studies from Yale University, master of arts in Asian American studies from the University of California Los Angeles, and a doctor of philosophy in history from Claremont Graduate University. Before joining CHANGE Philanthropy as executive director, Hom was the director of equity and social justice at Northern California Grantmakers. 

IP recently spoke with Hom about their story, organization and hopes for philanthropy in general. Here are some excerpts from the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

What is something keeping you entertained lately?

I was really having a hard time in the pandemic when I was working on operationalizing racial equity in philanthropy. The new CEO at Northern California Grantmakers asked how I was doing and I broke down crying because I couldn’t just turn off the nine-to-five work. He asked if I had a hobby and I realized I didn’t have an outlet. The outlet I found was Legos.

I have a Lego orchid plant, flower vase, artwork, pencil case with a rocket ship, and more. Building Legos becomes meditative. I’m trying to have play in my life. I’ve incorporated it into CHANGE Philanthropy, too, and gave my staff Lego flower sets that we made at our retreat.

What did you experience growing up that you carry into your work today?

I grew up as the only one born in the U.S. within an immigrant family. I'm very much a product of being a child of immigrants in Los Angeles. I don't think of myself as nonbinary but as gender nonconforming. I’m mindful of how I’m perceived differently, presenting male, masculine and butch while wearing men's clothing.

How people perceive me is intersectional. Racism, sexism, classism and heterosexism are all interconnected. Sometimes you cannot tell why someone might be oppressive to you. For example, I have short hair and go to the women’s restroom carefully because I may scare women who think a man is entering. A white woman came up to me in the restroom, touched my arm, and told me I was in the wrong bathroom. I think she thought she was a good samaritan helping an Asian male foreigner who went into the bathroom by accident.

Is she being racist, sexist, homophobic because she doesn’t see me? I cannot say it’s just one because it’s all of them combined. I have to fight against all of these oppressions because they impact all of us simultaneously. When I talk about racial equity in the philanthropy sector, it is an intersectional analysis and framework influenced by gender, race, class ability, etcetera.

How would you describe CHANGE Philanthropy’s role in the philanthropic ecosystem?

We are a coalition of 10 philanthropic-serving organizations supporting, advocating, pushing and urging foundations to do things differently and better. I like being in that role, which is educating and agitating. We amplify the 10 CHANGE Partners’ work and also do work in solidarity together [with efforts] such as the Unity Summit and the Diversity Among Philanthropic Professionals (DAPP) report.

I’m intrigued to see what else is in the future for us to make a dent in. Some people don’t like the term “philanthropic-serving organization” and there is a move to change it to “philanthropic-transforming organizations” or “philanthropic-supporting organizations,” which has a different connotation. There are different ways to be in that role and sometimes you just need an outsider to say, “Hey, foundations, this is what our field needs right now.” CHANGE Philanthropy is one small ecosystem within the huge philanthropic sector and I’m intrigued to see how we can amplify, build and supplement.

Part of CHANGE Philanthropy’s vision includes challenging philanthropic culture. What would you like to see challenged?

CHANGE Philanthropy put out an announcement about pluralism (“Philanthropy’s Bridge Bends Toward Justice, Not Cooperation”), which is one of the first times all CHANGE Partners put out an announcement together. Beyond an announcement, you have to have action. I’m curious about what we invite people to take action on and how we inspire them to do that. As a coalition, we have to figure out how we can be in sync with each other because our values are aligned, but priorities, tactics and strategies might be different across each CHANGE Partner.

What gives you hope for philanthropy moving forward?

We sold out of the Unity Summit tickets quickly, so I’m hopeful that there are people who want to bring resources to our underserved, underresourced communities. There are people who are fighting and working hard within their foundations to do that, and they don't have to do it alone. I'm excited about being part of an ecosystem building that network of like-minded folks who want to do that.

Marcus Walton, the CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, likes to say, “We’ll start with where you are at, but you’re not going to stay there.” Well, I'm going to start with where you're at, but you're not going to stay there. You're going to become uncomfortable. You're going to have to shift, surprise yourself, and maybe move away and have your consciousness raised. But you're not going to stay at that emergent state.

What else would you like to share with Inside Philanthropy readers?

Get to know the CHANGE Partners. I'm a member of each of the CHANGE Partners, because CHANGE Philanthropy is not a membership organization; we're a coalition of these 10 membership organizations. Some people think if you’re supporting CHANGE Philanthropy, you're supporting the CHANGE Partners. You are, in a sense, but you also aren't; you have to support both the individual institutions and the coalition. Be willing to support both the race-based and practice-based philanthropic-serving organizations as well as the coalition.

Michelle Dominguez (they/them/elle) is a Queer and Nonbinary professional born to Colombian immigrants on Tongva Land known post-colonization as Los Angeles. After a decade-long career in higher education student affairs, they switched to the nonprofit and philanthropy sector in 2021. What brings Michelle joy? Quality time with loved ones, mindfulness, chocolate desserts, and Disney magic.