Insights for 2018: Collaboration, Civic Engagement and Staying the Course

January 31, 2018 - Melissa Berman

If 2016 was the year of the unforeseen, 2017 was a year of adaptation, resilience, and response. Many practices and giving methods were expanded or adopted in the philanthropic sector with the goal of providing stability while also addressing divisions, protecting progress, building movements and supporting rights.

At Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, our work providing counsel to donors and their organizations gives us a remarkable vantage point to learn from the diverse mindsets, experiences and practices that make up the sector. These insights, along with our own research, help inform our understanding of the field, and through this past year, we’ve seen many effective giving trends emerge:

Collaboration – With the magnitude and complexity of the various social and environmental crises affecting populations around the world, no one person or organization can hope to solve these large-scale issues alone. An increasing number of donors, organizations and businesses are recognizing the need for true co-creation and for forging new partnerships to achieve sustainable progress together. Collaboration allows funders to pool resources for greater impact, while incorporating multiple networks and leverage points. Recognizing the benefits of collaboration, RPA has also implemented multiple new projects with partner organizations, including our report (funded by the Skoll Foundation) on how funders can scale system-level solutions. Through the Pop Culture Collaborative funders support media initiatives that aim to reduce bias. We also released a new Philanthropy Roadmap guide to share ideas with donors on how to foster partnerships.

Civic engagement – Regardless of political beliefs, it’s clear that many individuals have lost their trust in political institutions in recent years, often calling for change in leadership or policy. To ensure that public programs reflect the needs of all populations, many funders have supported projects that connect the public with knowledge and resources to encourage civic engagement. RPA is proud to work with several donors and sponsored projects that empower marginalized communities, such as Spirit Aligned, which supports Native American women leaders as they strengthen their communities. Another sponsored project, Executives’ Alliance, works to expand opportunities for boys and men of color.

Staying the course – In times of crisis, it can be easy to react precipitously or fall prey to misleading information. However, as outlined in our newly amended Giving in Challenging Times guide, RPA recommends that donors take a step back in trying times, review their strategy, and recommit themselves to their cause. Several of our partners and clients have approached us with concerns for their giving methods lately, and we are happy to work with them to develop a responsive strategy that meets the unique needs brought on by crisis, while staying true to their overall mission and long-term goals.

With these new developments in the philanthropic sector, we are entering the new year with a renewed sense of hope. As always, we will continue working alongside innovative funders to help create thoughtful, effective philanthropy.