In my role as a grant seeker and grant maker over the years, I’ve found myself consistently returning to the idea of how we might increase the philanthropic pie. Because, how else do we find the means to support all the worthy causes in the world? How do we eradicate domestic violence and address childhood obesity? How do we stop global warming and support local theatre? As individuals, as with foundations, we can’t respond to everything. And in a time when everything feels pressing, urgent and timely, how do we focus and move the needle on something. It’s certainly not just about throwing more money at the problems, because often the problems get worse or they shapeshift into something else. We’ve gotten better at evaluating effectiveness and creating metrics to score charities doing the work, yet the problems persist. Sometimes we find we’ve been throwing money at the wrong things.
Philanthropy is the conversation that opens us to the possibility of creating better systems, systems that recognize money as just one piece of the pie. In this view, each one of us is a part of the solution. And if we each have a role to play, it’s imperative to develop an awareness of how we fit into the problem and a framework for how to talk about it. We need to understand the ways these problems are interconnected, and acknowledge that each one of us is a node. Current technology is creating democratic ways of highlighting the problems and working together, and these methods continue to get smarter. But do each of us as individual nodes understand our responsibility and how to engage in the conversation?
The next paradigm shift in creating change takes place on the individual level. Growing the pie isn’t just about increasing the amount of money flowing into the system (there’s already a lot of money in the system), but about increasing the number of people who see themselves as philanthropists with multiple ways of giving. It’s about restructuring the pie itself and questioning the roots of inequity. By recognizing that we live within a construct that wasn’t always this way and is always evolving, we can make the necessary changes to ensure life works for the world we live in today. The field of philanthropy has the potential to build a movement of people who align their resources with their values and passions and who find ways to sustain a focused giving portfolio to make small changes around them. And it’s about reaching around the globe to connect with the network of people doing the same thing.
This movement is not limited to an elite group of people with extra money to give; and it’s not strictly about money for that matter. The doors of philanthropy are opening wide, with people from all stages and walks of life streaming through. By broadening our definition of philanthropist we engage more people in the on-the-ground work of making our communities better places for all of us. How each of us strategizes and creates a plan for giving will greatly enhance our ability to tackle the world’s greatest challenges. Your plan should consist of being informed about your passions, the needs of your community, and the resources you have to make a difference; being intentional about how you spend your resources and how you position yourself as a philanthropist; and being joyful in giving and receiving. When you approach your giving in this way, it’s revolutionary.
Building a foundation for civic engagement and passion for humanity takes time, and it starts with your desire to do something. If you’re interested in being more informed, intentional and joyful in your giving, sign up to receive these posts directly to your inbox.