How will history books mark this period? As the time when the cracks of social injustice and racial inequity reached their breaking point and gave way against the ravages of COVID-19, and when democracy disintegrated and social divides reached the point of no return? Or as the era when the impact of so many harsh truths finally became impossible to ignore or dismiss, leading to a tipping point that galvanized significant hope and change?

I am optimistic. This moment carries potential for a golden era for philanthropy – a period in which the role of philanthropy is more important than ever in reimagining a future that offers opportunity, equity, and justice for all. After all, among philanthropy’s greatest strengths are its ability to operate with a long time horizon, to rise above – and perhaps bridge – that which divides us, and to serve as society’s “risk capital.”

But what will it take to see with fresh eyes, to build community in ways that evoke our better angels, to bring about lasting social and environmental change? How can funders grab hold of the opportunity to be both bold and wise in finding ways to use philanthropy to make real, lasting change? One lesson seems clear – much work remains to be done to build resilient communities where all can thrive.

Using the past two years as a guide, there are certainly some bright moments and essential lessons that can accelerate progress towards a more equitable and just society. I would offer five principles as touchstones:

  1. Engage stakeholders at all levels and build deeper and stronger partnerships. Make it a priority to listen and learn from others. And going further, consider how you might bring diverse stakeholders together to collaborate in the design of new solutions to old problems.
  2. Be flexible. Effective philanthropic strategies can play a critical role in exploring new solutions to problems, translating research into practice, and leading progress.
  3. Keep an eye on the long term. Overwhelming need, not only in times of crisis, narrows the attention of many donors to immediate concerns and challenges. Many of our crises are the result of short-term actions rather than attention to long-term solutions.
  4. Build and support movements. To follow on that last point, many would argue that real change occurs only when root causes – not symptoms – are tackled by social and environmental movements with clear vision, achievable goals, strong leadership, grassroots engagement, and powerful coalitions.
  5. Help to bridge divides. The work must certainly include a greater focus on civic education, civil discourse, and collaboration – within our communities and beyond our borders – and philanthropy most certainly has a critical role to play in supporting these efforts.

Read the full article about philanthropy principles for an equitable future by Leslie Pine at The Philanthropic Initiative.