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An Unprecedented Year…and a Path Forward

- By Melissa A. Berman

2020 saw the spread of an ugly disease, ugly disinformation, and ugly examples of ingrained inequity, inequality and bias. Yet it also saw the spread of urgency about making sustainable change and changing how philanthropy operates. 2020 provided a non-negotiable impetus for many of us to step outside of our comfort zones even as we were physically in zones of isolation.

We want to express our gratitude for having worked with so many partners this year to mobilize $450 million in philanthropic investments in the intertwined issues of equity, climate, rights, education, the arts, health, and development—often with an eye toward changing the systems that underpin these challenges.

And the responsiveness this generosity illustrates offers great hope for 2021. We recognized the value of—and actually moved forward with—increased flexibility, trust in nonprofit leaders, deeper collaboration, and more comprehensive approaches for addressing society’s challenges. The role of philanthropy as a lever to shift the status quo has never been more important or more possible, and so ensuring that our philanthropy is thoughtful and effective has never been more important.

In 2021, we can all spread this promising progress by adopting the strategies my colleague Renee Karibi-Whyte wrote about in a recent article, including:

  • stepping outside your own bubble of “people like us” both professionally and personally;
  • continuing to evaluate and reconsider traditional grantmaking practices that create undue burdens or other harm for grantees; and
  • focusing on being a consistent and steady partner to grantees, moving beyond simply providing funding to new ways of aiding in their mission.

Included below are links to a selection of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors 2020 resources that we hope you will find helpful as you reflect and plan for the coming year. We look forward to continuing this journey together in 2021.

Wishing you a restful holiday and a healthy new year,

Melissa A. Berman
President and CEO

As part of our mission to create thoughtful, effective philanthropy, we seek to strengthen the philanthropy sector by sharing original research and insights. See below for links to key initiative highlights by or produced in collaboration with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Impact Investing

Impact Investing Handbook: This practical publication features case studies and detailed guidance for individuals, families, foundations, and corporations to help asset owners turn interest into action.

The Guide: what cultural institutions need to know about investing for values and mission: Created in partnership with Upstart Co-Lab, this is the first primer on impact investing specifically for leaders of museums and other cultural institutions.

Racial Equity

How Foundations Can Use Knowledge Management Tools to Advance Internal Equity and Inclusion: This webinar provides insight into how effective knowledge management can help donors advance equity and inclusion goals internally.

Breathing Through Injustice: Philanthropy’s Call to Action: As we strive to make a difference in these turbulent times, RPA is committing to starting conversations internally and with our clients and partners on what we need to change. This article includes a few questions to help guide us and others in that reflection.

Scaling Solutions Initiative

Seeing, Facilitating, and Assessing Systems Change: The third publication in this initiative is based on workshops held in Kenya, Colombia, India, and the United States. Highlighting case studies, and evolving practices, it focuses on how funders can design for and measure progress on systems change.

Scaling Solutions toward Shifting Systems: This webinar focuses on driving systems change, including how to empower grantees through streamlining, collaboration and increased responsiveness.

Strategic Time Horizons in Philanthropy

Global Trends and Strategic Time Horizons in Family Philanthropy:Created in partnership with Campden Wealth, this report reflects findings from a survey and interviews with over 200 families engaged in philanthropy.

Strategic Time Horizons: A Global Snapshot of Foundation Approaches: Focused on foundation giving, this report includes a global exploration of various dimensions of strategic time horizons and examines strategies and operations, as well as perceived advantages and disadvantages of different philanthropic timeframes.

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