We suspect no one will ever look back on the 2020s as boring. This decade started with a tectonic reckoning sparked by a global pandemic that revealed the deep inequities in the United States. This was followed by the police murder of George Floyd, a tipping point that revitalized the racial justice movement. Meanwhile, in the same year, an unprecedented number of billion-dollar natural disasters (22) struck the United States, while climate change and political instability continued to wreak havoc worldwide. These events affected every part of society—including how Americans give. As a result, donors have been compelled to revisit and revise some long-standing practices that have kept philanthropy from delivering on its full promise to people and communities.

Change efforts already underway in 2020 accelerated and spread. New questions and provocations pushed us all to reconsider the role of giving. While there had been a meaningful but relatively small movement toward equity in philanthropy, many more were convinced through the larger racial justice movement to consider equity—or the lack thereof—in every aspect of the sector.

Two-plus years later, where are we? Prompted in part by this thoughtful report from the Monitor Institute on the state of philanthropy, we reflected on the landscape facing high-capacity donors, as an intentional focus of ours is to support those with wealth to give in ways more likely to make a difference. We strive to encourage more donors to 1) understand the historical and racial context of the issues they are supporting and focus on those least well-served (equity); 2) understand what has been learned about what works and give flexible, multiyear support (effectiveness); and 3) move more resources towards addressing root causes and reshaping systems that are doing harm (systems-change).

In our view, early signs are mixed. There are areas of concern—none more prominent than the massive backlash against progress on social justice issues. But we do see positive signs, and we believe we can keep the lessons of 2020 in mind as we co-define new norms to undergird future positive outcomes for people and the world. This has been an unsettling time in some ways, but unsettled times present perfect opportunities to revisit, reimagine, and restructure. It’s an opportunity to set aside problematic practices in giving and change how we support each other, living into the ways philanthropy can truly reflect its love of humankind.

Read the full article about shifts in philanthropy by Stephanie Fuerstner Gillis, Tricia Raikes, and Jeff Raikes  at Stanford Social Innovation Review.