Right now, the field of philanthropy is facing several serious challenges. There’s the need for collective action on an unprecedented scale to tackle climate change. There’s the fact that while technology is helping to solve a lot of problems, it’s also creating some new ones. Then, there’s the fact that the very nature of philanthropy is currently under attack. Some are questioning whether or not philanthropy is effective or not. There’s a question of whether or not it can remain legitimate in a democratic society. All of these issues mean that philanthropy is currently at a crossroads and three major changes need to happen for it to continue to be a successful endeavor.
Acknowledging how money is made
The Sackler family is the owner of Purdue Pharma, the inventor of OxyContin, a drug largely responsible for the current opioid crisis. The family is also a big donator to the arts. Recently, a number of organizations have rejected donations from the family and have stated they won’t take any more of their money. It’s clear that donations cannot be separated from how the money was made. It’s been a long debate, one that started with Rockefeller and Carnegie, but it seems to have come to an agreement that money made through ethically dubious ways shouldn’t be put towards philanthropy.
Power shifts in philanthropy can only happen if the field itself reflects the diversity of the communities and people they serve. Some nonprofit organizations have begun to ask themselves if the gender and ethnic makeup of their board of trustees is representative of the larger population of the communities they’re working in. As philanthropy continues to grow around the world, it’s crucial that organizations match the culture of giving already present in that country.
Transparency and openness
Transparency is an ongoing challenge for nonprofit organizations. A level of anonymity is sometimes required to keep donors private, but the general culture should be one of openness. It helps the organization remain legitimacy in regards to where the money comes from. Open data can also help inspire new discoveries. The recent shift towards using limited liability companies (LLC) in place of traditional philanthropic structures provides more flexibility but also means there is much less transparency required of the donor. This switch could undermine the fields overall effort to be more transparent.