Our hope is that this book creates an on-ramp for those of you who are new to philanthropy, and a roadmap for those already committed to this journey. When the Rockefeller family decided to launch what’s become known today as RPA out of their family office in late 2000, we were in something of a second golden age of philanthropy. This was spurred by a new generation of wealth – the Gates, Moore, Turner, Packard and Hewlett foundations took their size and shape around this time. We asked one simple question regarding the potential for RPA: What can we do to ensure that this flow of resources nurtures the ground it flows over rather than flooding and devasting the earth? Very few models for how to answer that question existed. For RPA, the enduring values of Rockefeller philanthropy helped guide us: respecting the nonprofit sector, focusing on values not views, taking a long-term, global perspective, and committing to good governance.

The Rockefeller family has engaged philanthropy professionals from the 1890s, and we wanted to build a professional, knowledge-based approach to this long-standing work. The RPA mission statement focused on “thoughtful, effective philanthropy” for that reason. We also wanted to build understanding that a thoughtful approach to philanthropy improved effectiveness, and so from the outset we committed to developing and sharing insights. This volume draws on the lessons learned from this broader legacy as well as the work RPA has done over the past two decades.

It comes at a time when philanthropy as an idea, and the world it hopes to heal, both face dramatic challenges and opportunities. The metaphor of the nurturing stream versus the flash flood has helped RPA focus on the whole landscape, on lasting relationships, and on sustainable progress as opposed to attractive short-term solutions. All of us in philanthropy have been challenged by the sharp traumatic shocks of the past 20 years, including (but alas not limited to) 9/11, genocides and wars, human-intensified natural disasters, the Great Recession, Covid-19, George Floyd’s murder, polarization, and autocracy. Each of these shocks upend our sense of how the world works. Many of us – not just at RPA – question what our role has been in creating the problem, but also how we can be part of the solution.

Read the full article about enhancing giving at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.