Monday, October 27, 2008

Philanthropy calls to action

My post from Friday, better philanthropy, is about the future and what a better philanthropic system, industry, market, ecosystem (or all of the above) can look like, how it could work, and how individuals and enterprises would work within it. Since I initially put out this vision in 2004, many things have come online that have made elements of that vision real.

In the last week or so I've received at least six emails (and one Facebook notice) that are examples of how this is happening. One came from a major research university, one from a think tank, one from a consulting firm, one from Paul Shoemaker of SVP Seattle, one from the Council on Foundations and one from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. All of them were promoting or encouraging certain types of collective action by philanthropists during this economic cycle and in preparation for a new presidential administration. They are notable in the aggregate for several reasons:
  1. It wasn't that long ago that it was hard to find any organization actively promoting an agenda for philanthropy in the aggregate, let alone five such calls to action;
  2. The diversity of players in the list above is notable - two professional associations, one research center, one commercial vendor to the field, and a group of committed actors - that type of organizational diversity, promoting collective action, is a healthy sign for an industry.
  3. All of the calls to action encouraged continued contributions and a recognition that philanthropy sits in relationship to the public sector and private economy - an intersectoral reality I fully subscribe to but so often see ignored.
These are positive signs of efforts to work together, to aggregate action, to respond and work within tough external realities, and to think deeply about the timing and commitment philanthropists make to the causes they care about.

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