The future of philanthropy is here

The annual Stockholm Philanthropy Symposium took place two weeks ago. Approximately 200 experts from international and regional organisations, NGO’s, private sector and grant-making institutions gathered to discuss what could and should be the role of philanthropy in addressing today’s global challenges.

Many key notes addressed the issue of philanthropic response to the refugee crisis in the context of other global issues such as climate change. The responses varied according to the background and format of the experts, but common themes emerged: the importance of coordinating philanthropic responses based on collaboration and tangible impacts in reaction to the governments’ inability to act, pulling together resources to create a critical mass, making investment decisions based on their social impact, and raising the investment potential of social innovations by measuring impact.

From the important themes that emerged from the conversation I found the idea of “making money work for the impact” most interesting. In the traditional mindset, people and organisations accumulate wealth and at some point find the need to “give back” to the society. In the new model, existing wealth should be made to work for the impact. In other words, it’s not about how much you give away in philanthropic activities, but how you manage and invest your wealth overall.

Another issue I found particularly interesting related to the idea of raising the value of philanthropic activities. What can organisations do to attract more corporate and private support and investment? The answer in today’s world seems simple enough – doing good should also be good business. The main objective of most companies is to create more revenue. If social organisations are able to add to that revenue by creating programs and projects that manage to create the core impact and at the same time add on the revenue accumulated the win-win formulate will undoubtedly create more successes for both. A good example of this approach has been the Red Nose Day (Nenäpäivä) that also in Finland has managed to raise increasingly more funds based on the campaign-nature of the activities and find concepts that are based on doing good by doing good business.

Finally, a central question to the whole conversation about creating impact through philanthropic responses related back to the role of the government. Will we see a model where governments concentrate on more holistic approaches whereas private organisations focus on creating specific responses and actions? Will private operators replace governments due to lag in response time, money, resources and understanding of quality? One thing has already surfaced – since philanthropists can take higher risks than governments or traditional investors, new social innovations are likely to emerge from either by them or supported by them. What will be the public sector’s response?

Sanna-Mari Jäntti

Sanna-Mari Jäntti is Senior Advisor at Miltton Networks. She specialises in third sector organisations including NGO’s, arts and culture organisations, education, philanthropy and other non-profit organisations in Finland and abroad.

Twitter: @sannamarijantti