Council on Foundations – What will 2011 represent for philanthropy?

There is a growing movement in society that goes far beyond the American political system and is concerned about the size of, and borrowing by, our public sectors. In many ways this concern helped define the US elections at the end of last year and will define the agenda for the president and the new Congress. The key question we face in 2011 is ‘What is the role of philanthropy when our governments are both broke and broken?’

The quick answer is that philanthropy is NOT ‘government-lite’. Philanthropy must remain innovative, independent investment in positive social change. All predictions, from market forecasts to the newly enacted tax policies, suggest that philanthropy will grow in 2011- and the Council on Foundations will engage in a number of initiatives aimed at supporting this growth.

First, we need the 110 new members in America’s Congress (parliament) to understand the importance of a legal and regulatory environment that enables continued growth in philanthropy, in ways that serve their communities.

Philanthropy is likely to grow not only in size, but also in service – and such service is increasingly defined through leadership initiatives led by philanthropy. As such, CoF is convening a series of CEO and trustee leadership initiatives in 2011, combined with our Diversity Pathways programming.

Finally, this growth will also occur in global grantmaking. We see this in every sector – family and community foundations, corporate grantmaking and larger independent foundations that have long participated in this area. CoF’s participation with EFC and WINGS in the Global Philanthropy Leadership Initiative moves into its second year in 2011. At home, we are creating our first Global Grantmaking Institute in response to the growth of cross-border giving.

We are at a unique moment in our sector’s history. Built on our commitment to innovation and independence, philanthropy welcomes this opportunity to provide leadership for strategic investment in positive social change. 2011 can be a great year for philanthropy in who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

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