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Innovative Approaches to Accelerate Your Philanthropy

June 28, 2023

Webinar Summary and Link to Recording

As global challenges are becoming more complex, some philanthropies are exploring innovative approaches to rise to the challenge.

As part of a webinar series aiming to highlight themes in an upcoming two-volume book, RPA hosted a conversation on Innovative Approaches to Accelerate your Philanthropy to spotlight organizations that are shifting the philanthropic paradigm. Moderated by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ Henrietta Bankole-Olusina, the conversation featured Amol Mehra of Laudes Foundation, Filiz Bikmen of Esas Sosyal, and Kristen Molyneaux of Lever for Change.

The panelists provided insights and recommendations that are condensed below in a few key themes:

Expand Beyond Traditional Grant Support

The need to expand beyond traditional financial grantmaking emerged as a key takeaway from the conversation. Funders are beginning to explore new ways to support their grantee partners, offering capital in different ways and for different purposes. By investing in a partner’s capacity and wellbeing, funders can help create more resilient organizations that are better equipped to enact change.

For example, Kristen Molyneaux explained that Lever for Change has partnered with vendors who offer a wide range of different kinds of technical and capacity support. This can take the form of fundraising support, leadership training, coaching on how to be a better trauma-informed organization, and more. She highlighted that these offerings are flexible and demand driven; grantees are not required to opt into anything, instead selecting what they need when they need it. Lever for Change also ensures these services are offered to all staff members, not only organizational leadership. In this way, Lever for Change supports the needs of their partners outside of traditional grantmaking to create organizational resiliency.

Amol Mehra also mentioned the Laudes Foundation’s institution of wellbeing support for their partners. He urged more funders to take the wellbeing of their partners into consideration and move away from a primarily results-driven approach to evaluation. Because grantee partners have expressed this need, the Laudes Foundation has rolled out wellbeing support in which grantee partners can add a line item that allows them to invest in the wellbeing of their staff and organization. With burnout and mental health challenges on the rise, strategies like investing in the wellbeing of grantee partners can play a key role in strengthening communities philanthropy seeks to serve.

Invest in a Culture of Learning

Despite different organizational focuses, creating a culture of learning is important for each organization. Philanthropic institutions seeking to drive sustainable change should be intentional about learning from their wins and failures, developing an evolving strategy based on institutional and community knowledge. This process involves informal mechanisms around knowledge sharing, but also embedded practices and investment in becoming a learning organization. The Laudes Foundation hired a head of learning and appointed learning champions on each team; these team-based learnings then inform strategy adaptation each year. They have also offered support for their grantee partners to invest in learning, creating a trickle-down effect in knowledge sharing. Filiz Bikmen mentioned Esas Sosyal’s commitment to research, data collection, and information sharing. By conducting regular research, Esas Sosyal is able to keep their finger on the pulse and respond more quickly to emerging trends and issues.

This value around learning also involves embracing failure. Amol Mehra mentioned the Laudes Foundation’s efforts to destigmatize failure, describing philanthropy as “society’s risk capital.” Philanthropy has the freedom to experiment and fail in that experimentation. “We do not have time to repeat the mistakes of the past, and we need to fail forward and be comfortable with failure,” he said. Laudes Foundation hosts an annual “Fail Fest” where they celebrate their failures and the lessons that they sparked. In order to drive sustainable change, funders need to be willing to acknowledge and learn from failure and then adapt their strategies accordingly.

Acknowledge Intersectionality

The importance of centering intersectionality and transparency to accelerate philanthropy also emerged as a central theme. Amol Mehra stated that, while intersectional problems can feel overwhelming, all issues that funders work on are linked. The Laudes Foundation has begun to view themselves as nexus foundation, working at the intersection of climate and inequality to bolster impact in both spaces. Laudes recognizes that climate change is a human issue, and thus cannot be separated from inequality. By embracing this intersection, they have encouraged communities to take ownership of solutions, realizing that the communities on the ground are those with the answers.

Esas Sosyal, which focuses on youth employment in Turkey, has seen multiple strands of their work intersect as the world faces complicated challenges. Education, economic mobility, health, and climate are all linked. Feliz Bikmen cited the impact that the pandemic has had on youth unemployment, and the ways in which issues can ripple out and have a cross-cutting effect. She highlighted the importance of staying aware of these connections in order to remain flexible and adaptable to ecosystem changes.

Embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Finally, implementing a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) lens emerged as a key strategy for accelerating philanthropy. By expanding their perspectives and prioritizing transparency in their work, these funders have seen increased impact and stronger relationships with their partners. Filiz Bikmen articulated that adopting a DEI framework has allowed Esas Sosyal to better serve communities by centering the needs of those who are most impacted by these complex challenges.

Similarly, Kristen Molyneaux noted that Lever for Change has embedded a DEI lens into their open call funding model. By intentionally bringing diverse voices into their application and evaluation processes, Lever for Change has been able to connect with more organizations in more meaningful ways. She stated that when funders approach issues with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, there is a greater chance that everyone wins.


While philanthropy as a sector can be averse to risk and change, these three panelists exemplify the exciting developments that can arise when an organization commits to accelerate their work and shift the paradigm. To learn more about specific approaches and examples, watch the recording below:

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