By Peter Manzo
The Philanthropy Summit will be my first Council on Foundations event, and as its scale and combination of COF membership groups are unprecedented, it is hard to know what to expect.
For my part, I’ll probably look at it from a number of angles, from trends in giving, especially support for policy advocacy and community organizing; to emerging uses of technology; to some legal issues. No doubt every one of the 3,000 or more people expected to attend the conference will have their own different perspectives, but I want to suggest three lenses readers may want to add to their mix.
Today I’m attending a board meeting of National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, (I’m sure it this will present an interesting comparison to the Summit.) NCRP has developed a focus on the following three principles. “Philanthropy at its best”:
- Strengthens democracy by responding to the needs of those with the least wealth and opportunity;
- Serves the public good, not private interests; and
- Employs grantmaking practices that most effectively help nonprofits achieve their missions.
These may sound generic and uncontroversial (well, OK, the first one will be controversial to many), but on closer inspection, they are pretty rich and powerful (elegant, even), and can support both powerful critiques and commendations of a grantmaker’s practices. From my point of view, they are a big step forward for advocates for increased and improved philanthropic support to low income communities and more ethical, effective grantmaking, in no small part because they point to a positive vision of what good philanthropy is, an achievable ideal (not really an oxymoron), rather than focusing on philanthropy’s many deficits and trying to specify particular practices.
In the coming months, NCRP’s board and staff will develop a number of criteria to outline our vision of “philanthropy at its best.” Naming them “criteria” is meant to reflect that they will be values-based and will be used to enable funders and observers to measure progress in alignment with those values. (A key point to emphasize is that supporting and encouraging measurement is not the same thing as setting a standard measuring stick. This could be the subject of a separate post, preferably from someone smarter than me.) Our aim will be to generate a continual conversation about what exemplifies the best philanthropy, and to do so in way that enable funders and observers to measure progress.
So, whatever specific interests have brought you to attend the Summit, please consider looking at all the Summit’s sessions, events through these three lenses. How would addressing environmental concerns, like global warming, or health issues, or creating beauty or supporting expression through the arts fit under these three?
I would love to hear what you think of these three principles, and suggestions for adding others to the mix.