Philanthropy Sector In Flux

Dr Salvatore LaSpada Institute For Philanthropy Chief Executive London/New York 12 May 2010

Philanthropy Sector In Flux

Philanthropy is in ferment, with more overlap between the world of charity and business and due to developments such as growing use of online social networks, argues Dr Salvatore LaSpada of the Institute For Philanthropy.

Philanthropy is a field that is increasingly of interest to private wealth advisors and their clients; it is also a field that is in an unprecedented state of flux.  At the Institute for Philanthropy, we have seen much of this firsthand. The donors with whom we work are finding ever more innovative ways to engage with the challenges and opportunities that they face in their charitable giving.  Accordingly, as part of the general current of change in philanthropy, we have identified four key trends that private wealth advisors can usefully look out for.

Our first prediction is that the worlds of business and charity - once traditionally distinct and distant from each other - will overlap as never before. The notion of good corporate citizenship is not new: many companies have programmes whose aim is to contribute to the community around them. However, businesses will be looking more and more to ensure that their financial goals are closely aligned with their social ones.  What we will be seeing, then, are corporations using the tools of capitalism to bring about wider public benefit - be that investing in ethically-sourced products, or the growth of social business.

Secondly, we anticipate the parallel growth of online giving and what we refer to as the “experiential economy”. With the rapid advent of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, donors are closer to and better informed about their grantees than ever before; millions of pounds in gifts, as seen by the spectacular response to the Haiti earthquake, can be given by the simple click of a finger. At the same time, we will see the steady rise of the “experiential economy”.

Many donors are reluctant simply to write cheques in support of overseas causes; they often wish to travel abroad and see the context in which their money will be used. At the Institute, we arrange annual visits of this type for up to 14 philanthropists, as part of The Philanthropy Workshop (our international donor education programme).  In recent years we have been to Ghana, Vietnam, China and Rwanda, with a week-long visit (or “module”) in India to come; a feature of each module has been the eagerness of donors to meet with civil society workers and experience directly the vital work that they are doing in their local communities.

Thirdly, and on a related point, we envision a new generation of donors, more socially aware than before, who will have a uniquely global outlook on their giving. Of late, we have seen donors emerging not only from the better-known philanthropy powerhouses of the US, the UK and Canada, but also from France, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and so on. What has been striking is the extent to which this network is keen to exchange ideas, and in some cases collaborate, despite their regional differences.  This globalisation of philanthropy is a trend that we expect to continue.

Fourthly, finally, and not least, we anticipate that the new ways of philanthropic giving will be driven by those parts of the world where strategic philanthropy is gaining a foothold for the first time. In Asia, we are already seeing new entrepreneurs whose giving has reached unprecedented levels for the region. We are also seeing them, in partnership with government and civil society organisations.  It is not just about more giving, but new models of philanthropy and new approaches of using private capital for social benefit.

The future of philanthropy, then, seems to be an exciting one for both wealth advisors and the individuals and families whom they serve. Philanthropy is growing and changing; it is, in fact, entering the 21st century.

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