Giving Compass' Take:
- Rhodri Davies shares ways for philanthropy to adjust in order to address criticism and ensure it retains public trust and the ability to create impact.
- Do your philanthropic practices need a review? How are organizations you work with dealing with criticism?
- Learn more about democratizing philanthropy.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
This is a difficult time for philanthropy. Challenges like global climate change are demanding collective action on an unprecedented scale. Technology, meanwhile, is creating new social problems at the same time as providing new tools to address existing ones. Added to this, shifting demographics and social trends are changing our notions of community, society and nationhood beyond recognition.
1. Acknowledging how money is made
The recent controversy surrounding the donations of the Sackler family in light of their role in the opioid crisis has made it clear that how money is given away can no longer be separated from how it is made.
The idea that some donations are “tainted” has been brought to the foreground once more. And it’s not just how money is made that is the problem, either: how it is then used is also a growing issue for philanthropy. High-profile divestment campaigns have already been aimed at universities and arts institutions, and they are undoubtedly a sign of what is to come for the wider world of philanthropy in terms of scrutiny of investment practices.
2. Embracing structural change
For some high-profile critics such as Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, it is not specific acts of wealth creation that are the problem, but rather the structural inequality in society that makes it possible for some to gain vast wealth while many languish in poverty.
It may not always be easy, but rather than abandoning philanthropy altogether, there are plenty working to craft approaches to it that can deliver genuine structural reform.
3. Democratizing philanthropy
A crucial part of making philanthropy capable of addressing inequality is to ensure that it is not seen as merely a tool for the powerful to entrench their advantage. It is thus vital to find ways to give away not only money, but also power.
4. Reflecting diversity
Genuine shifts of power within philanthropy can only happen if the field reflects the diversity of the societies in which it operates and the people and communities it serves. To this end, some nonprofit organizations are asking themselves difficult questions about whether the balance of gender, ethnicity and background in their staff and boards of trustees is right.
5. Innovation and discovery
Stanford philosopher Rob Reich’s recent book Just Giving raises challenging questions about how we balance the freedoms given to philanthropy with the requirements of justice and equality within a democratic society.
One answer may be in the idea of “discovery” – the ability to bring new issues to light and to find new ways of addressing them.
6. Transparency and openness
A key challenge for philanthropy in the coming years will be ensuring that it is open and transparent. While a degree of anonymity may sometimes be required to protect a donor or recipient, in general we should aspire to openness.
Read the full article about ways forward for philanthropy by Rhodri Davies at World Economic Forum.