I still remember the laughter and hoots of support mixed with the boos of opposition the first time the words ‘impact heretic’ were banded around the Association of Charitable Foundations’ (ACF) 2016 AGM. I was in week three of being with ‘Team Alliance’, as I’ve come to refer to our tiny team.
As one of my first tasks when I joined Alliance in October 2016, I was asked to attend the annual ACF conference to listen and absorb as much information as I could – I was new to the world of philanthropy and had no idea why people were in such support or opposition at the idea of ‘impact’.
My near-eighteen months with Alliance have opened my eyes to the spirit of philanthropy.
To take the literal meaning ‘the love of mankind’, it’s so clear that people involved in this sector do it for the love of the cause, and in this era of ‘fake news’, the rise of populist politics and increasing fear, philanthropy is needed more than ever.
My time with Alliance has been a journey through the rabbit hole of philanthropy and I’ve had to balance many aspects of running communications for a global magazine and website.
From being asked to produce, create, record and edit a new venture called ‘Alliance Audio’, to learning the importance of pin-on microphones when recording vox pops, to trying to curate a daily blog to keeping social media filled with key stories, opinions and happenings from our sphere – it’s been quite the ride.
It’s become quite common for people to ask how big is ‘Team Alliance’ considering we do our best to cover global philanthropy and there is always a seeming look of surprise when I mention there are four of us based at Alliance HQ in London.
We rely on a dedicated handful of brilliant individuals around the world to assist us with finding news and polishing the new quarterly issues of the magazine before publications.
For a team so small, sometimes it’s quite humbling to look at quite how many people we’re in contact with to pass us their news and stories of organisational success or learning.
It’s been a privilege to have been part of Alliance’s magazine re-brand. After 11 years and 45 issues, Alliance magazine underwent radical design changes to have an entirely new look and feel.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like we were standing at the bottom of Everest, knowing the climb we had ahead of us.
The result of the numerous team meetings, and collaborations with our awesome new designers (Steers McGillan Eves), lead to a team effort I’m really proud of. We’ve had incredible feedback from readers about how the design feels modern and fresh.
Running communications for Alliance is not without its adrenaline-filled moments such as the time Alliance broke a story about the Ford Foundation forty minutes before the story broke on the Wall Street Journal.
In my role as Communications Officer, part of my job is the running of the website and, in particular, creating and preparing each article for publication on our daily blog and our quarterly issues.
Sometimes when uploading the articles I have felt the pull between the good work done and the critical assessment which needs to be conducted, in order to ensure foundations and organisations are giving money in the right way to the causes they believe in.
I’ve watched in wonder as Charles battled the fine line when editing magazine content to be fair in judgement and assessment; where we’ve battled over specific word choice – “Should we be using the word secretive? I know it’s the word the person in question used about the topic, but it just feels a bit too controversial?”.
I’ve been lucky to be in many discussions with Charles where he’s come off the phone or has come back from an interview with a philanthropy practitioner where they’ve said something controversial which, for the sake of balance, we then need to offer a countervailing view.
The Alliance machine is made up of so many tiny parts and advice and input from so many individuals who believe in Alliance’s core aims to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas among philanthropists, social investors and others working for social change.
Alliance still has mountains to climb and depths to explore – we are always looking to welcome diverse voices to write for our daily blog, or to submit content ideas for our magazine.
It has been humbling to experience the other side of the proverbial looking glass.
Alliance has offered me the chance to see first-hand the genuine good works that so many people and organisations are doing. Measuring impact, not measuring impact, revenue streams coming from different areas, hands-on or hands-off grant management; no matter how individual organisations operate, the people working for them are all doing it because they believe in the core aim of their organisation.
In my last few weeks at Alliance I feel incredibly proud to have been able to organise seven blogs from women working in philanthropy to celebrate International Women’s Day.
The blogs serve as a reminder of what women from different background, different countries and who work in different philanthropic areas experience on a day to day basis and how far the sector still has to go to achieve true equality.
In this era of uncertainty, we are reminded of our humanity, of our philanthropy, as the reason why we must push on and we must strive to reach our collective humanitarian goals.
To finish and to summarise my experience with Team Alliance, I will steal the quote from the great American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’
Kathryn Murrell is Alliance‘s Communications Officer.