Nine conversations to be part of…

January 28, 2018

There are at least nine conversations that Philanthropy New Zealand sees happening internationally and locally as philanthropists and grantmakers think about the challenges of doing more and doing better. What’s your take on these crucial conversations?

Philanthropy New Zealand CE Tony Paine and Relationships and Events Manager Yvonne Trask present these in summary here, with an invitation to consider how you are participating and what else you might contribute to these developing features of our landscape.

  1. Transformation

Grantmakers are increasingly focussed on tackling the causes as well as the symptoms of social and environmental challenges. Figuring out how to be part of the fence at the top of the cliff as well as the ambulance at the bottom is a critical challenge as we seek to respond to the big ‘wicked’ problems of our age: climate change, poverty, inequality, exclusion, violence, and environmental degradation.

  1. The power of venture philanthropy

We have enormous freedom to invest in innovative ideas to tackle social issues. We can take the risks needed to help start and test responses to social need. Some in the sector are suggesting that we need to learn from venture capital as we invest. We’re also recognising the need to enlist the support of other funders, including government, to pick up initiatives that we have helped pilot, bringing them to sustainability and scale.

  1. High engagement

We are only as good as the organisations and movements we support. Everything philanthropy funds is implemented by others, so we have a vested interest in helping those groups be the best they can be. High engagement takes us beyond cheque book approaches (‘send the money and leave them to it’) to much more relational, hands-on approaches designed to help organisations become ‘investment ready’ and build capability to deliver.

  1. Diversity

Philanthropy and grantmaking cannot yet claim that we look like the communities we seek to serve. We are only now starting to hear the leadership, wisdom, and contributions of young people, people with disabilities, people from lower socio-economic communities, Māori, Pasifika, and people from migrant communities. Just as importantly, how can we go from diversity (‘counting heads’) to inclusion (‘heads that count’)? It’s one thing to have, for example, a young person sitting at the board table, another to ensure their contribution is supported, valued, and equal.

  1. Relationships with Mana Whenua

Some grantmakers are responding to the compelling evidence that the system is failing Māori in areas like health, justice, and education. We can focus on powerful examples of Māori self-determination and community development. Research and experience show a rich cultural life and sense of belonging are turning around negative outcomes for whānau, hapū and iwi. The challenge for grantmakers is not to ignore the negative statistics but to use them to inspire relationship building and grantmaking that seeks to give further life to the Treaty guarantee of Māori control of the things they value.

  1. Aligning investment with mission: impact investing

There is growing evidence that investment activities can be an effective tool for achieving our mission alongside grantmaking. Globally, the scale of impact investing has seen a huge growth in capital that targets social and/or environmental outcomes alongside financial returns. In New Zealand, the uptake in this type of investment by trusts and foundations is increasing but it is still small scale. In our search for sustainable solutions, impact investing can’t be ignored.

  1. Participation, transparency and power

For grantseekers, it can seem like funders have all the power. An unequal relationship is inconsistent with our values and creates barriers to crucial conversations about success. Grant recipients may fear that being open about ‘failure’ will lead to a loss of funding. Involving recipients and communities more meaningfully in our work is one solution. We are seeing communities invited to help in funder strategy development and we are seeing recipients participating in funding decision-making. New approaches to accountability—like the transparency movement and round-table reporting—are being tested as we think more about using our power with responsibility and humility.

  1. Funder burden and sustainability

Are we eroding or contributing to sustainability? Questions like this are leading grantmakers to consider how their processes impose direct costs on grantseekers, and to simplify and rightsize (relative to the size of the grant) application and reporting processes. Two step application systems, single gateways to multiple funders, common application forms and accreditation processes are all on the agenda.

Also in play are:

  • Multi-year grants
  • Unrestricted contributions to trusted organisations
  • Reflecting on our expectations about when and how organisations might be able to operate without our support
  • Paying what it takes—including a fair share of overheads and/or funding an entire project.

This could help break the cycle of grantseekers routinely asking for more than they need because they expect us to only part fund.

      9. Three growth trends for giving in New Zealand

a) In the next 30 to 40 years, $US30 trillion in financial and non-financial assets is expected to pass from the baby boomers to their heirs in North America alone. This trend will be echoed here and underscores the importance of our work engaging with young people.

b) Community foundations are closing in on nationwide coverage, and experience internationally suggests that funds under management and distributions will scale-up significantly.

c) Corporate giving will continue to rise as the focus on community, meaning, and contribution goes well beyond social enterprise to all parts of the business world.

This article was originally published in Philanthropy News, Issue #72, December 2017