Philanthropy's Crucial Role in a Challenging Political Climate

Philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) and funder collaboratives have demonstrated flexibility, agility, and a willingness to collaborate in the evolving political environment that has unfolded since the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new report that tackles the impact of the current landscape on the field through interviews with more than 20 leaders.

(Un)precedented: Philanthropy takes action in the first year of a new political reality, by the TCC Group, explores the critical role of philanthropic organizations and funder collaboratives – such as Grantmakers in the Arts – in supporting funder learning, facilitating networking, enhancing opportunities for collective response, and helping to bridge divergent political perspectives that may exist within foundations.

In a piece on the report at the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the researchers Melinda Fine and Steven Lawrence explain that funders renewed their appreciation for PSOs and funder collaboratives after the 2016 presidential election:

In fact, PSOs and funder collaboratives were the “first call” for many funders after election night; funders felt they were essential to enabling the grantmaking community as a whole to respond and adapt in ways that are often challenging for individual institutions.

The report highlights that an impact of the political climate has seen a stronger focus among grantmakers on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their strategies and work. The report quotes Denise Shannon, executive director of Funders for Reproductive Equity, who said, "given the (Trump) administration’s tendencies and unleashing of a racialized atmosphere, the focus on DEI has become more pronounced.”

Fine and Lawrence add that nearly half of leaders interviewed referenced an increase in prioritization of DEI work at their institutions. While some funders remain cautious, a critical question facing philanthropy is how funder collaboratives plan to sustain this type of collective impact strategy, including thinking beyond “silos” and locating philanthropy within advocacy and civic engagement.

Click here to read the report.

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