In the magnificent Opera Garnier, the opera house of Paris, our expert guide finished her tour on our site visit with an important notion. Over 20 years of working at the opera has not taken away the astonishment and appreciation: ‘I still get surprised how everything is possible here’, she said.
In very similar way I feel touched by the magic of the foundations all over Europe, when listening colleagues and experts telling about their work, achievements and impact in the EFC AGA. It seems here, that everything is possible for the philanthropists and foundations. They create just as well houses for asylum seekers, finance solutions for fighting the climate crisis, support the LGBTI activism and bring the total opposites together in the ‘new giving circles’ just to mention few current phenomena. The magic lies in the human beings. And that’s what philanthropy is all about, as we got reminded in the opening plenary. Philanthropy is the love of human beings and humanity.
My usual cynicism was lost in Paris. The work done by the foundations is breathtakingly diverse, and the people working in the foundations are incredibly interesting and skilled. It is most educative to listen to those who work with and for philanthropy, each of whom I did learn something new. And this after working in the foundation field for over 20 years, practically all of my career.
Discussions at the conference open the eyes to the diversity of Europe and humanity very uniquely. We have the whole humankind in our hands. This is just too easily forgotten in the middle of routines, best practices, processes, taxation, gdpr’s and rest of the constructional ingredients of our daily work.
At the heart of the intellectual feast of the conference, I am mostly concerned about how we can tell the non-believers about the versatility and significance of foundations and their effort. We cannot rest on our laurels or just settle for the surrounding societal change with its yellow vests and extreme movements. Civil society is altering every day, and to gain legitimacy we have to be relevant today and tomorrow. Yesterday is not enough. We need to build trust for the future.
There we can get some help with balancing the professionalism and idealism in our everyday work. Let the magic touch yourself.
Liisa Suvikumpu is CEO of Council of Finnish Foundations