Philanthropy is inherently shaped – not only by strategy and performance metrics – but by the quality of our relationships. That became ever so clear to me as I listened to the three keynote speakers during the virtual Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium in September.

To whom should we listen?
Theo Sowa urged us in her melodic voice to, Reach beyond the boxes that people are constantly trying to put you into.’ In other words, ‘Don’t just listen to those who look like yourselves — your inner (donor) circle.’ Listen to those on the front lines with lived experience. Give them the power to decide how to invest the funds you provide.

How should we listen?
Keynote speaker, Kumi Nadoo, a South-African-born human rights and climate activist, bemoaned that we in philanthropy often ‘listen for what people don’t have. This will only disempower them further.’ Instead, he exhorted, we should listen for their strengths and assets, their power, dignity, and successes. Reflect them back and build upon them.

How should we share what we’ve heard?
I sometimes become overwhelmed by all the challenges in the world. So, I resonated with Yousafzi’s rhetorical question, ‘What can I do as one individual?’ She urged us to not isolate ourselves, but to draw others in by asking how they are personally affected by current issues. No matter where we are — whether in our families, neighborhoods, or workplaces – we can simply ask, ‘How are you impacted by what is happening around us?’

Implications for Global Philanthropy
Imagine the global impact we could make if every one of us, like Yousafzi, asked people in our networks, ‘How are you impacted by what is happening around us?’ If we shared with them how we are personally addressing the existential crises of our lives — and inspired them to join us — we would have the power to increase global philanthropy far beyond the meager 5c on the dollar for every donation from the US.

Read the full article about quality of relationships by Karen Ansara at The Philanthropic Initiative.