Philanthropy Operating Archetypes

Operating Archetypes: Philanthropy’s New Tool for Strategic Clarity is an analytical framework designed to accelerate philanthropy by helping funders better understand and articulate their distinct position in the philanthropy ecosystem.

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The archetypes featured in the publication were developed based on input from dozens of foundations and nonprofit partners worldwide as a result of RPA’s multi-year Theory of the Foundation® initiative, which seeks to enhance the capacity of philanthropies to effectively align their resources for the impact they envision. It flows out of The Philanthropy Framework, which was developed by RPA in 2019 as an instrument to guide emerging and established philanthropies to better align resources for maximum impact.

The release of the archetypes is timely. The seismic shocks caused by the global pandemic, socio-economic inequities, growing polarization, institutional racism, and climate change, are challenging the legitimacy and purpose of philanthropy. Additionally, new philanthropic models are emerging, transforming the sector. This moment challenges philanthropies to strategize how they engage with grantees, partners, and communities to create that change. Applying an analysis of operating archetypes will enable funders to think about how they achieve and evaluate impact, and better center and embed equity in their work.

The Operating Archetypes distilled by RPA include: Talent Agency, Think Tank, Campaign Manager, Field Builder, Venture Catalyst, Designer, Underwriter and Sower. Each is defined by several core attributes that range from the philanthropy’s value proposition to its skills to its advancing equity, relationships, and more. The archetypes in action are illustrated by funder case studies:

  • Skoll Foundation, US Talent Agency
  • Arnold Ventures, US Think Tank
  • Officine Grandi Reparazioni (OGR), Fondazione CRT, Fondazione CRT, Italy Campaign Manager
  • Wellcome Trust, UK Field Builder
  • Boticário Group Foundation, Brazil Venture Catalyst
  • The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund’s NEPA Readiness In Skilled Employment (RISE) Program, US Designer
  • The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Arts in Health Program US Underwriter
  • Building Institutions and Networks (BUILD) Initiative, Ford Foundation, US Sower

Click here to access the publication. As philanthropies apply this instrument, their insights will contribute to more powerful impact for the sector as a whole.