Everything but the money

Post written by Tracy Mack*

We spend much time at the Institute for Philanthropy on the topic of how philanthropists can make strategic social investments with their financial capital. But in late April, we gathered a group of our Philanthropy Workshop Alumni and other philanthropists in our network in London to talk about everything but the money.

The idea was to explore how philanthropists can leverage non-financial assets for causes they care about, such as:

  •  Talent (your know-how)
  • Networks, including your access to influential opinion and policy makers in media and government
  • Convening power (venues and platforms you can offer to bring stakeholders together)
  • Communications (can you write, advocate, speak publicly?)
  • Ability to mobilise other people’s resources (individuals, foundations, corporations)

With this in mind, we heard from four change-makers over the course of two days, who highlighted strategic ways to apply different assets to large-scale campaigns.

Nick Booth, Chief Executive of The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, shared how he leverages the Princes’ position and convening power to marry “moments and mission”. This involves creating great public awareness moments to catalyse the missions of non-profit organisations. Nick also reminded participants to carefully consider whether the best strategy is to ‘build it or join it’: you don’t always have to start a campaign; sometimes the best strategy is to join an existing one.

Casper ter Kuile of Common Cause shared groundbreaking research on the values that motivate people, and how awareness of these values can help campaigns become much more powerful tools for long-term change. Casper also highlighted how approaching issues from a values-based perspective can help to bring together different organisations to form strong coalitions.

Jamie Drummond echoed the call to search out shared values to identify unlikely allies, for example religious groups who believe we are stewards of the earth can make great partners with environmentalists on campaigns to protect natural resources, even if they are on different sides of the political aisle. Jamie explained how the organisations he leads, DATA and ONE (supported by Bill Gates, George Soros and Bono) work to tap into grassroots membership networks, NGO coalitions and celebrities with sincere interests in the cause to advocate successfully for specific policy solutions to end global poverty. He reminded us to always keep the big picture firmly in mind, but to avoid an ‘all or nothing’ mentality and make an effort to embrace small incremental victories.

Finally Tony Hollingsworth, Executive Producer for Tribute Inspirations that choreographed some of the largest concerts in the world (including the two Nelson Mandela Tribute concerts) shared how to use popular culture as a powerful campaign tool.

One of the key takeaways from the group discussions was the value of networking and exchanging information: there was a consensus that more communication among funders – for example sharing information on who is working on what – would enhance the type of collaboration and partnership required to achieve greater impact. A model of this in practice that could be replicated is Ariadne, the European Human Rights Funders Network. There was de facto acceptance that the complex social and environmental issues that the world is currently facing cannot be tackled alone, and it was acknowledged that although productive collaboration takes real effort, it is well worth the investment of time and resources.

Reflecting on the two-day course, our recently installed chief executive Kurt Hoffman concludes: “The strategic philanthropists that we work with recognise that maximising social impact is about far more than money. But it’s not easy. It takes real commitment to seek out and convene likeminded funders, charities and community groups – all of which must be guided by the same vision. There is also a clear need to build up a body of evidence of what works and what doesn’t. Reporting failures as well as successes has an important place in moderating the attempts of others working in a similar space.”

But perhaps the biggest lesson was far from new: strategic philanthropy continues to advance and become ever more sophisticated. The commitment and challenge it has come to embody means it is becoming a career in its own right. But then the size and complexity of domestic and international issues being addressed, demands nothing less.

*Tracy Mack co-chaired “Philanthropy Plus: Everything But The Money” a new two-day course offered to philanthropists.  

The next course will take place in New York, 13th – 14th September 2012. For more information contact tpw@instituteforphilanthropy.org

For more information on our upcoming events: http://www.instituteforphilanthropy.org/events/

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