Slow and challenging collaborative work the key to progress for philanthropy

October 17, 2019

The challenge of measuring philanthropic impact, and the importance of funding advocacy and system change were highlighted in a presentation given to Philanthropy NZ’s Wellington members this week.

JBWere’s Shamal Dass said philanthropic funding was often delivered on top of, or alongside, considerable investment from Government, the community or the individual themselves. Therefore attempts to track the specific impact of philanthropic funding were fraught, and would usually require considerable additional funding to measure.

Shamal also said that, despite the considerable focus on issues like homelessness and family violence by Government and philanthropic funders in Australia, these problems were getting worse.

The only option was for all types of funders, policy makers and service delivery organisations to work together, at a system level, to comprehensively address issues. This multi-sector collaboration to fix causes, rather than alleviate symptoms, is complex, challenging and slow work.

Shamal said funders need to think beyond what is currently being done to what needs doing, to make to ensure that all the necessary interventions/services are available.

They also needed to consider funding the ‘connective tissue’ organisations to help people to navigate complex ecosystems like homelessness and family violence. This includes: funding research to understand the systemic issues; advocacy to address barriers in the system; and funding the convening of collaborations – so that the right players come together to comprehensively address issues that no one can resolve on their own.

Funders also needed to think beyond the money to other ways they could help recipients of their grants, for example supporting capability through offering specialist skills or providing connections to other organisations or individuals who can assist.

Shamal posed two the following two questions to the audience: “For all the time, talent and treasure we apply to these social and environmental issues, what have we really achieved,” and  “what is really holding us back from lasting impact?”

Written by Sue McCabe