Daniel Lee

Philanthropic Transformation Director
Headshot of Daniel Lee smiling, wearing a blue collared shirt against a brown backdrop

Daniel Lee

Philanthropic Transformation Director

Daniel Lee is the Director of Philanthropic Transformation at Solidaire, leading efforts to transform philanthropic culture and practice toward long-term structural change by engaging senior-level executives in our network. He recently served as Executive-in-Residence at the Council on Foundations. Daniel spent 17 years in a variety of roles at the Levi Strauss Foundation, including service as Executive Director from 2008 to 2021. He led the foundation’s Pioneers in Justice initiative, building the capability of emerging social justice leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area over five-year durations. The foundation received an inaugural Impact Award by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and was named best corporate donor by Inside Philanthropy for its focus on marginalization and equality. He cut his teeth as Senior Program Officer for Asia Pacific at Outright Action International and did a stint as researcher-writer for Let’s Go travel guides in Southeast Asia.

Daniel’s board service includes Community Change, New Breath Foundation, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Global Health Advisory Council of Open Society Foundations, Astraea Foundation, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Funders Concerned about AIDS and Starr King School for the Ministry. He received his AB in religion from Princeton, Master of Divinity from Harvard and Honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology from Starr King School for the Ministry.


What Liberation Means to Daniel

Tell us why you do what you do.

I am the offspring of spirited, tenacious refugees who spent their childhood years in North Korea and uprooted their lives several times before settling our family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I developed an inexorable sense of what it means simultaneously to be an insider and an outsider – something that I still carry everywhere. I went to divinity school, finding my spiritual home not inside the walls of institutions but in the clamor and pluck of social movements advancing human rights based on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV/AIDS status. 

An advocate at heart, I am drawn to championing underdog causes and unheralded leaders, speaking truth to power, bringing together unlikely bedfellows and moving capital and resources. 

What’s most important to you about being part of Solidaire?

Philanthropy, which means ‘love of humankind,’ is a dance of power and love, as these words of Martin Luther King illustrate. I’m honored and delighted to be part of Solidaire, which brings unconventional courage, candor and kink to collaboration in this dance:

Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” 

What does liberation mean to you?

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” The Gospel of Thomas

Nobody’s free until everyone’s free.” Fannie Lou Hamer