Transforming philanthropy: How and who?

Amy McGoldrick

Demands to transform philanthropy are becoming increasingly vocal and widespread. These proceed both from the urgency of the problems confronting us and from the growing sense that institutional philanthropy derives its wealth and its status from a set of arrangements in which injustice is enshrined. Driven by this and under the immediate stimulus of the pandemic, changes have been taking place. So-called trust-based giving has made headway, with grantmakers removing restrictions on funding, relaxing reporting requirements and getting money to grantees more quickly. How far have these changes gone? Now that the immediate crisis created by the pandemic has passed, will they continue in force, or will grantmakers revert to more cautious practices?

Alliance hosted a worldwide conversation on transforming philanthropy sponsored by Mercer, ahead of our new issue on the topic released in March – featuring the guest editors.

Moderated by features editor Andrew Milner, the panel included:

  • Michael Seberich, Managing Director, Wider Sense
  • Erin Ganju, Managing Director, Echidna Giving
  • Renée Horster, Co-Founder, Resource Transformation

A few highlights from the event:

Erin said: I find it amusing how much we pretend philanthropy isn’t highly political. We try to think of it in this pristine world, that we’re doing good work in giving away money, but at the end of the day, everything we are doing in one form or another is really political. We have a vision of the world, you can agree with it or not – but every decision we making is having an impact on the ecosystem around us. We need to own and acknowledge [this] fact.

Renée: The ability to do philanthropic giving is the result of a deeply unjust economic system. That system exploits people and land, and essentially destroys our chance of survival because it’s destroying our planet. …Problems in the world like poverty, white supremacy, gender inequality, the climate crisis – they are the result of that same economic system, but so is philanthropy. ..Philanthropy is the manifestation of it, in the current form that it is practiced.

Michael: It is important in these times to consider the future of philanthropy and foundations for many good reasons… many people question [their] legitimization. ..There is the question of what can foundations do? Foundations in the future need to be a lot more conscious of what diversity means for their work, both inside and outside their own walls. Be more inclusive, be more open, be more accessible for grantees. Foundations in the future also need to listen… and share their power.

You can watch the full recording of the event here:

Our next Alliance event takes place in March in partnership with Asia Philanthropy Circle. Make sure you are on our mailing list to receive an invite!

You can also sign up to attend the Mercer Global Investment Forum here.

The Forum brings together the investment community to discuss the latest themes – shifts in geopolitical structures, monetary and economic policy, sustainability and new technologies – that are shaping markets and investment practices. Each event offers a day of main sessions, specialist streams and keynote addresses. Register today!

Amy McGoldrick is the Head of Marketing, Advertising & Events

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