We envision a world with equitable opportunities and resources that enable all individuals to meet their fundamental human needs. As a result, people will have the agency to create the lives they desire and the means to engage purposefully in their communities and in society at large.
What Should Philanthropy Do?
Because philanthropy can move quickly and take risks that public and private sector investors often won’t, it has the potential to work outside the status quo to build new, more equitable systems to serve communities. The most effective philanthropists take on this work while thinking about how to use their power – resources, influence, and relationships-to accelerate progress toward communities’ goals.
At Building Impact, we hope to advance this type of work, which we call “forward-thinking philanthropy.”
Forward-Thinking Philanthropy Defined
Being a forward-thinking philanthropist is less about achieving an end-state and more about engaging in ongoing learning and growth.
As individuals, forward-thinking philanthropists know that changing the world has to start with changing themselves. They know they don’t have all the answers and are curious and eager to learn from others, open to new challenges, and reflective and welcoming of feedback. They dig deeply into the root causes of social issues, openly examine their own role in the problems that they want to address, and understand that their learning is a continuous, ongoing process.
At the organizational level, forward-thinking philanthropists operate with a clear mission, vision, and set of values that drive their work, and regularly ensure their approach is aligned to those values. They build diverse teams and partnerships that foster collaboration and risk-taking. Forward-thinking philanthropists regularly tease out the biases and barriers within their own organizations that are misaligned with grantee needs and they continuously adjust their grantmaking processes to be more responsive, equitable, and inclusive.
In relation to communities, forward-thinking philanthropists know that the ultimate measure of success is the degree of positive impact their philanthropy has on others. They maintain relationships with communities most impacted by inequities and collaborate with them to devise solutions. They act in service of their grantees and are willing to leverage their networks to ensure grantees have the resources and information needed. Forward-thinking philanthropists look for opportunities to influence and support other philanthropists in their work to further collective impact.