Professionals of humility

Benjamin Bellegy

The professionalisation of our field is gathering pace but we must never abandon the art of philanthropy

It is no scoop to say that philanthropy has rapidly and deeply professionalised over the past decades. Actually, the whole story of institutional philanthropy is a story of professionalisation, underpinned by the idea that charity is not enough, or even harmful, and that donors need to structure and strategise their giving, with goals, metrics, institutions and tools. It is the story of turning an impulse of the heart into a rational enterprise and by doing so, creating an industry.

It has proved to be a fast-growing industry, especially in emerging economies. Today, foundations represent at least 1.5 trillion dollars in assets and 250,000 entities. This is without counting other forms of philanthropic giving. In China, the number of foundations grew 350 per cent between 2009 and 2017 and the potential to unlock philanthropic capital in emerging economies keeps growing.

This growth has been accompanied and supported by growing numbers of advisers, conveners, administrators, teachers, data experts, and advocates. As in any industry, its development relies on this soft infrastructure that trains the leaders of tomorrow, develops the tools and norms, builds bridges and convenes and helps connect resources with needs.

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