Dream big for change: Impressions from the We Give Summit 2024


Mani Khy


The We Give Summit, held online from May 7-9, united philanthropy leaders in inspiring keynotes, interactive workshops, and compelling panel discussions. This year’s focus? The ‘5Ts of Philanthropy’—Time, Talent, Treasure, Testimony, and Ties—activated across collective giving groups.

As someone who has spent over a decade in institutional philanthropy and grown a love-hate relationship, I often wondered if we’re making the kind of difference needed to tackle persistent and wicked problems. That’s why serving on the Steering Committee and participating in this event was so important to me. It allowed me to explore the most innovative and impactful solutions in the sector. The Summit was the perfect place to engage in life-giving ideas that are shaping the future of philanthropy.

Transforming Relationships and Operations

In the session “Research in Action: Leverage Data to Strengthen Your Collective Giving Group,” participants gleaned valuable insights into the rapidly evolving world of philanthropy. The discussions focussed on the shift from traditional charity to impactful social justice through one of the fastest-growing methods of giving in the United States – ‘Giving Circles’. Estimated to double again in the next five years, funding through giving circles isn’t just about changing tactics but fundamentally redefining what it means to giveThis approach was outlined in the broader session.

The panel featured a diverse group of field experts, including Dr. Adriana Loson-Ceballos of Colmena-Consulting, who brought insights from her PhD on the Latino Giving Circle network, and Dr. Michael Layton of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy. Jillian White from North Star Fund and Guff Van Vooren of Social Venture Partners International both highlighted the shift from mere monetary donations to forming deep, sustainable partnerships with communities because of their respective, growing experiences in giving circles. Van Vooren discussed her experiences in Social Venture Partners Minnesota, illustrating how strategic, justice-oriented giving can lead to more meaningful change than traditional charitable donations. The panellists’ call to action for the audience leaned toward activating everything on top of money itself, highlighting the powerful change that occurs within the givers as they engage with the communities they serve.

A poignant example of this approach is captured within the experiences shared by Dyma AbuOleim of ‘200 Muslim Women Who Care‘ in Tampa Bay. This organisation not only raises funds of around 20 thousand dollars per quarter but also equips local nonprofits with the non-monetary resources required for them to thrive on their own. AbuOleim shared, “We want to be in the community to actively engage with them,” emphasising the shift towards relationships that empower.

Dreaming Bigger

Dan Pallotta, a vocal advocate for rethinking nonprofit funding, provided a stirring narrative on the need for transformation within the sector during a session with Philanthropy Together’s Sara Lomelin, “Give Radically: A Conversation on Moving from Charity to Change.” Reflecting on the challenges faced during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States among other heart-wrenching experiences that fuelled his view on tackling wicked social problems, Pallotta noted, “People are yearning to meet and express the hero or heroine inside of them. They don’t want to go to the grave with their true music inside of them.”

Pallotta criticised conventional metrics of nonprofit success, which focus too much on low overhead and salaries at the expense of real impact. He argued that this mindset traps the nonprofit sector in an “economic prison” that perpetuates fear of going bolder, while for-profits enjoy the ability to innovate and attract talent at all costs. Unfortunately, these liberties are severely lacking in the nonprofit sector here in the United States, and they were enthusiastically affirmed through participant comments and reactions.

“Big ideas require big infrastructure spending,” Pallotta stated, challenging the audience to rethink how funders traditionally allocate funds, pushing for a shift from restricted to general funding to address real-world problems.

Join the Discussion

The two sessions highlighted a critical evolution in collective giving towards systemic change. This requires rethinking fundraising, resource allocation, and community relationships. The sector’s evolution demands bold leadership, innovative thinking, and a steadfast commitment to justice and equity. The Summit’s broader call to action asks us to redefine what it means to be ‘human-centred‘ in the name of generosity. This transformation, then, is imperative for lasting impacts beyond temporary solutions. Giving circles are already on the move and seeing this happen, we must embrace this change wholeheartedly.

What are your thoughts on transforming philanthropy and fostering systemic change? Share your ideas in the comments below and help us push the boundaries of giving – both individually and collectively.

Mani Khy is a member of the We Give Summit Steering Committee and the Senior Advisor, of Philanthropic Strategy and Innovation at Scholar Leaders. 

Comments (0)

Retro Bowl

I'm excited about the gathering of philanthropic leaders, connecting through keynotes, interactive workshops and engaging discussions.

Sara Lomelin

Thank you Mani for your leadership in our committee!

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