Advising Philanthropists: Principles and Practice draws together the knowledge and practical insights that we have gained during our combined 48 years working in fundraising and studying philanthropy (Beth) and working in grant-making and as a philanthropy advisor (Emma). This material is enhanced by interviews with 40 philanthropy advisors across 15 countries who kindly shared with us their motivations for doing this work, what it involves, the challenges they face, the highlights that make it worthwhile, and their hopes for the impact of this work. Shining a spotlight on philanthropy advisors—who they are, how they work, and to what effect—has been a pleasurable task.

Unhealthy and undemocratic power dynamics are a focus of much current concern about private giving. In our interviews we highlight a number of examples where advisors (which includes both individual consultants and advisory organisations) are working with donors to promote and support power-shifting practices. These include:

  • Ceding control: Phīla Engaged Giving advised on the establishment of The Share Fund, which aims to “step out of traditional power structures of donor control, … to cede all grantmaking decisions to a Funding Committee composed of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of colour] community members with expertise in racial and gender justice”
  • Listening and responding: Melinda Tuan is Managing Director of Fund for Shared Insight, which she describes as “a national funder collaborative working to improve philanthropy by promoting and supporting ways for foundations and non-profits to listen and respond to the people and communities most harmed by the systems and structures we’re seeking to change with our work”.
  • Taking a reparative approach: there are new advisors with expertise in equity and justice moving into the philanthropic space. For example, private wealth lawyer Stephanie Brobbey has founded the Good Ancestor Movement, which advises clients to adopt a reparative approach when choosing how to use their surplus wealth.
  • Examining privilege: Generation Pledge is helping donors to examine their privilege through a behavioural change model which helps inheritors to think about their relationship with wealth and learn to operate from a place of intellectual humility, meaning they are willing to change their minds and behaviour when presented with solid reasoning.
  • Encouraging bolder action: Resource Justice “exists to educate young people with wealth about the roots of inequality and to encourage each other to take bold action to redistribute wealth, land and power in solidarity with movements for social justice that can create systemic change”.

Read the full article about advising philanthropists by Emma Beeston and Beth Breeze at Stanford Social Innovation Review.