Giving Compass' Take:
- Recent philanthropy research notes how we are broadening definitions of philanthropists and expanding how individuals, foundations, and organizations practice philanthropy.
- How can expanding this definition help improve philanthropic goals and help the charitable sector?
- Learn how small donors can bring about big change.
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One of the most consequential emerging trends in philanthropy is a growing consensus that we must expand our collective definitions of “philanthropy” and “philanthropist.”
Two recent publications nicely encapsulate how the definitions of philanthropy and philanthropist are being transformed, expanded, and enriched in ways that are having a lasting impact on the field. They also reinforce the sense that we have come to an inflection point in our understanding of philanthropy, where cumulative progress is supplanted by an enduring paradigm shift in how we understand this crucial aspect of society (Kuhn, 1970).
Taken together, and placed within the broader movements for collective giving we have seen in previous 11 Trends in Philanthropy reports (e.g., giving circles, global giving traditions, the leadership of donors of color), these two works are helping our sector to question and redefine itself in three critical and mutually reinforcing ways:
- How we engage in philanthropy, emphasizing the importance of collective action and community connection. In a historic nadir of “community connectedness and social solidarity in America” (Putnam & Romney Garrett, 2021, p. 105; Layton & Martin, 2021), the movement towards giving circles and other forms of collective giving grounded in conversation and collaboration is more important than ever. Through the Latino Giving Circle Network, the Latino Community Foundation, for instance, has been explicit about how giving circle participation aims “to change the meaning of philanthropist to be both more inclusive and a step toward building power” (Bernholz, 2021, p. 177; Layton, 2021).
- Reimagining how we identify philanthropists, seeing generosity not only in those who make large monetary donations. Since 1996, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has supported organizations working to expand who is considered a philanthropist. Most recently, as part of the Catalyzing Community Giving initiative, their work is to underline the centrality of community in identifying and solving community-based challenges (n.d.).Organizations such as Learning to Give and The Giving Square are working to redefine the age of the “typical” philanthropist, as they encourage children and youth to understand the philanthropic relevance of their actions as caregivers and to see their calls for fairness as essentially philanthropic (Neugebauer, 2021; Mangrulkar & Behrens, 2013).
- Where we express our solidarity, beyond the formal, institutional settings of organizations and foundations. Part of expanding who counts as a philanthropist is appreciating the myriad ways in which we seek to improve our communities. When we help a neighbor, participate in a public meeting, or make purchases taking into account our environmental and community impact, we are acting to advance the public good.
Read the full article about definition of a philanthropist by Michael Layton at Johnson Center.