The Ord Minnett Philanthropy Conversation Series, hosted a panel discussion chaired by Benjamin Clark, Head of Philanthropy at Philanthropy Australia Executor Trustees and Mae Hong, Vice President of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers (USA). It was held at Ord Minnett in the Sydney CBD on the 20th September 2016.
Overall, the discussion was framed around the necessity for innovation and storytelling within philanthropy. Ms Hong stated that, “I’m here as your student, to learn from you all…on a reconnaissance mission.” Ms Hong’s background is social work in the Not-For-Profit sector. Hong began her career in a foundation for community development, where she focused on writing grant applications and proposals. Her attraction for working in a foundation, was based upon their perceived role in directly addressing social problems.
Many of the audience were from the Not-For-Profit industry and were interested in learning about philanthropic engagement. Hong emphasised the importance of identifying a story within your local area and or field to source engagement and drive donations. It was stressed by Hong that it is how we showcase stories that directly influences philanthropic decisions.
This is especially significant as annually in the USA, $375 Billion is dedicated to social causes. The identified main givers within the USA were ‘Mega-Givers’, Tech Billionaires and grass roots micro givers. Hong stated that it is the power of the story that drives donations whether large or small and therefore the stories create solutions themselves. Additionally, Hong states that philanthropy can “help donors find the intersection where their support meets the world’s needs.” In effect, the causes get support and the donors are satisfied as their gifts are matched with their own values. This confirms the key importance for organisations to establish a clear story for philanthropists to identify with.
Traditionally philanthropy has been perceived to give solely to ‘visible’ causes. However, Hong stated that Philanthropy is now moving towards a model of capacity building, through enhanced donor education on the value of supporting an organisation in achieving its own goals. Investing for resilience rather than for glamour. Therefore, the model of capacity building is as much about keeping the lights on, the salaries paid and stationary stocked as it is about finding a cure of cancer. This is where the future of philanthropy lies.
Hong gave an example of a major philanthropic organisation such as the Bill Gates Foundation, who are leveraging their assets to achieve major social impact. Impact Investment is where and how the next generation of wealthy investors are anticipated to invest. Therefore, to chart a way forward we must understand our own organisations, mission, environment and core competencies.
However, it is not just about monitoring who and where future Philanthropists will invest, it’s also about reviewing the patterns of investment that are evolving. In the USA there have been considerable issues surrounding donor exhaustion as a result of persistent marketing, campaigning and face-to-face fundraising. This has been combated through the use of short-term strategies with specific goals that are having a considerable impact. For example, the #Dayofgiving in the USA gives organisations 24 hours to raise as much capital as possible once a year. Essentially, Ms Hong advises that we need new hooks to cut through the noise of giving elsewhere to create intuitive and engaging opportunities for future Philanthropy.