What do they really mean when they say philanthropy? The word literally means ‘love of humankind.’ The definition we use comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which says philanthropy is ‘the giving of time, money, and know-how to advance the common good.’ This definition complements the one commonly used by scholars, who treat philanthropy in all cultures throughout history as giving outside one’s family.
- from Looking Out for the Future
Katherine Fulton and Andrew Blau have written a wonderful orientation document for people who are making financial gifts now and considering their future roles in philanthropy. The previous post was about Katherine Fulton, so look there for more information on her and click on Mr. Blau’s name above for more information on him. The guide is partially geared toward an audience in the world of charitable foundations but is well worth reading for anyone who makes charitable donations and plans to continue doing so. Do you consider yourself a philanthropist based on the definition above? Whether you do or not, read on for more information about Looking Out for the Future: An Orientation for Twenty-First Century Philanthropists.
Philanthropy is all about choices: the choice to give, the choice of how to give and who to give to, even the choice of when to declare victory or admit failure. It’s a profoundly voluntary act with profoundly important consequences. The choices matter not just because donors contribute to important causes and inspiring people, but because philanthropists contribute to shaping the future for all of us.
- From Looking Out for the Future
In a section called Seeds of Change in Philanthropy, the Orientation has a series of suggestions as to how you might respond to patterns they see emerging of how innovative philanthropy is done in the U.S. Among the changes detailed in the sub-section Experimenting with Grantmaking Strategies are these that might apply readily to individual donors:
- Supporting organizations, not just programs. Concerned that the bias toward project support (that itself emerged from an earlier call for focus and accountability in philanthropy) oft en leaves grant recipients without resources to operate and respond eff ectively, some funders have moved to providing core operating support.
- Becoming more focused and persistent. The alignment of interests between the funder and recipient is also reinforced by an emphasis on becoming more focused and persistent, thereby creating a lasting and collaborative relationship between a donor or collection of donors and an organization or group of organizations devoted to a shared set of goals and objectives.
- High-engagement giving.
- Funder as initiator and operator. Some grantmakers are no longer waiting for ideas from the field, but are initiating their own projects, identifying strategies, and soliciting organizations to pursue those strategies.
In a later section called Imagining the Future, the authors recommend creating scenarios as a way to challenge ‘our assumptions about what might happen and why, and our strategies for adapting to change.’ The document contains a number of provocative scenarios by the authors, which are really worth looking over, before you consider your own.
Two final pieces are worth pointing out. The first is their inspiring list of other resources; some of these are published in hard copy and some are web resources. The other is their helpful diagram of Putting All the Pieces Together, which captures the interrelatedness of our gifts to other forces of positive social change. The whole document is available on the Future of Philanthropy web site and many of the individual pages of the report are also available as individual pdfs on the site. It is a rich resource.
Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.
- Albert Camus