This evening I went along to the Swinburne Philanthropy Alumni event – 3 ladies and a doctor, to hear my chums from 3eggs philanthropy talk about trends in philanthropy. (Not that they need much more publicity for their blog methinks enviously viewing their statistics and page view number). However, in the interests of sharing some of our philanthropy love of discussion around, I thought I should introduce you to them if you don’t already know them.
Started by program managers from the Myer and Potter Foundations, Debra Morgan, Caitriona Fay and Claire Rimmer have been jointly blogging from their perspective in their roles as strategic grantmakers, in their personal capacities, but with the approval and recognition of their respective organisations.
Debra and Caitriona spoke about trends in philanthropy, particularly transparency, politics in philanthropy, advocacy and increased funder collaboration. They also talked about changes in technology (particularly social media and blogging) which are allowing peers and colleagues to meet and share ideas more than in the past (is this true or is it just easier to make contact through social media?), evaluation (“is this a trend within a trend?” asked Caitriona), social investment and impact investing, and the changing role of grantmakers – honest broker, investor and partner.
It was a stimulating talk (particularly as I have been not blogging for a while and it was great to hear firsthand some discussion about the issues grantmakers face), especially in relation to the different approaches by philanthropy to the arts and the environment in the UK and the USA. Following on from attendance at some grantmaking conferences overseas last year, Debra and Caitriona noted some strange discrepancies in relation to the demands of grantmakers about capacity building for grantees, notably that arts organisations are more likely to be required to submit to more arduous and rigourous examination of their financial information (including how their systems are set up and run), while environmental organisations seem to be dealt with in a more hands off and facilitation mode.
I wonder whether this is because arts funding has traditionally been more about capacity building and developing levels of professionalism, while environmental not for profits have grown more from grass roots and membership organisations who would not take so kindly to being told how to run their values based organisations. (Just a wild guess but perhaps worth discussion).
Caitriona spoke briefly about the various levels of evaluation – evaluating the grantee program, evaluating the efficacy of one’s own granting, and assessing sectoral impact. I somehow got the impression that evaluation for its own sake is not such a good thing – and that we should be thinking more about the purpose behind evaluation – and how we can share both successes and failings (at more than one level). How can we measure our own impact and disseminate what is both good and bad practise so we can learn from each other. Caitriona suggested that funding better communication could be a key to this, and noted that some foundations and trusts have begun to be more transparent about how they work, what they fund and how they make decisions, through their engagement in social media, with newsletters and annual reports, but that this is still a slow process.
Debra talked about the change in roles for funders (as mentioned above) and asked how the skill sets of staff and boards need to change in order to be able to play these roles. She also spoke about the push from grantseekers for investment funds on which they would pay a return, and that boards are also starting to think about impact investing for social impact as well as a straight financial return, and that these are new areas for boards to consider. Both Caitriona and Debra noted a spike in applications for social enterprises in recent times and there was some discussion around whether this is a business model which philanthropy can and/or should be funding.
To round off, the main trends they identified were:
advocacy (further to the Aidwatch High Court decision will philanthropics now fund more advocacy organisations?)
increased funder collaboration (not co-funding)
What do you think of these trends in philanthropy? Were you there? (I know some of my readers were). Are there other trends you see developing? Is it important to know what is trending?
Finally thanks to Debra and Caitriona for a discussion which has reconnected me with my laptop! I look forward to hearing your views (and don’t be shy – 3eggs said they were disappointed with the level of comment on their blog – feel free to air your views here – only spam comments don’t make it through).