This edition of the Nonprofit Quarterly has been fascinating to patch together, because there is so much that is still a moving target where the new landscape of philanthropy is concerned. We almost feel like we should label this Part I—soon to be followed by a Part II—because although we have covered some major new philanthropic developments in a fairly thorough way, there are at least that many more that need to be explored.
So let me, for a moment, discuss the title of this edition: “New Gatekeepers of Philanthropy.” Why are we discussing philanthropy in terms of “gatekeepers?”
Quite simply, the entry points and requirements for being funded are shifting in any number of ways. As one example, we are moving away from having a number of combined funds developed from pooled donations in our communities, and returning to an approach that has us more often in direct (albeit sometimes digital) contact with individual givers. And our task is to get a designation directly from them about who and what is to be supported/funded. This then requires that we are on our games in acquiring and sustaining strong multiple relationships with potential givers, even while they are being exposed to ever more opportunities to involve themselves and give away their charitable dollars. This backs into some other organizational requirements, like the ability to engage volunteers as ambassadors and to create a community of activists around what we do and a living out of a brand that embodies integrity and effectiveness.
This would require us to be responsible to the multitudes.
In that context, we have an article in this edition on the growing importance of donor loyalty and the practices associated with it. We also have a discussion on how to get the attention of self-made business people through financial advisors, and a thorough discussion of the fast-growing phenomenon of donor-advised funds.
But on the other side of the spectrum, many large foundations have no such “market” to which they need to be responsible. Some very large, iconic foundations have boards whose members you can count on one hand—with fingers left over. Set against that background is an article protesting the tendency of many foundations, under the rubric of strategic philanthropy, to narrow their grantmaking to reflect a very particular strategy. This, the author says, shuts down the interactive learning between the foundation and the field, starves grassroots action, and stifles creativity.
In short, we have nonprofits that are becoming increasingly driven by their markets and philanthropy that increasingly is not—except by conscious choice. Again, there is much more to do to provide a close to complete scan of this changing field, but we hope that what we present here resonates and informs.