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The rise of the new philanthropy

How are philanthropists changing their priorities to ensure real impact? Recently there’s been a shift happening in philanthropy towards a more trust-based, data-informed and strategic approach.

Our founder Marcelle Speller spoke to Marylou Gourlay of The Philanthropy Workshop for a new Brevio podcast series: How we innovate: Third sector talks. 

You can listen to the full podcast here.

Marylou joined The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) – a network of over 450 global leaders committed to solving the world’s most pressing social issues – in 2015.

Prior to that she spent four years as Head of the CFO’s office at the British Council, the UK’s educational and cultural organisation, where she worked on global health, security, equal opportunities & diversity and internationalising education programmes.

We are heading towards a more trust based approach to philanthropy

This approach is “all about shifting the power dynamics when you come to the table as a funder” said Marylou.

Trust-based philanthropy has emerged from growing concerns over the grant making process. Marylou explained that charities are spending 21 hours completing grant applications, but often the funder already knows who they are going to support.

The trust based approach relies on funders doing their own research into charities to make informed decisions about who they can grant funding to. “It takes the burden away from the charities,” she said. 

Speaking about how Brevio can support this new approach, Marylou revealed that one of the things she loves about Brevio is “the level of confidence that it can bring to someone, particularly early on in their philanthropy journey.”

The role of philanthropy should be “bold, innovative and nimble.”

Marcelle and Marlou also discussed the growing appetite for risk within philanthropy groups. Marcelle explained that this ability to take risks gives philanthropists a unique opportunity.

“We can actually take risks that other players in civil society and government can’t.”

So what is actually involved in taking risks? Well, according to Marylou it involves looking at philanthropy through a slightly different lens.

“Some of the greatest breakthroughs are often made through seeing philanthropy as risk capital,” she said. 

What does the new generation of philanthropists look like?

Traditionally philanthropy has been based on personal experience or interests but we’re now seeing a shift in this approach, Marylou explained. 

“What we’re seeing now is a move towards people asking ‘what does the world need most and how do I feed into that?’”

Both Marcelle and Marylou reflected that we are also seeing a community of philanthropists coming together, through organisations like TPW, and other smaller groups, with the goal of supporting each other in their giving.

The groups provide a much-needed space to discuss philanthropic goals in a strategic and open way.

“Within philanthropy there is a space for everyone. Each one of us can play a role within this ecosystem,” Marylou said. 

What does the future hold?

Marylou predicted that in the future we will see an even greater need for collaboration to tackle the world’s greatest shared challenges, as well as more dynamic social investing, more transparency and trust and a widening of the lens.

“We’re seeing a need to focus on the intersection of philanthropy, government, business and civil society,” she said. 

Speaking about the challenges the sector has faced, Marcelle reflected that “there’s been so many silos in philanthropy and in giving. Charities know what they need. They know what the problems are and they know what the solutions are.”

Marylou said that there is a strong need to look at how different causes are actually interconnected. “Nothing can be taken in isolation.”

“There’s truly never been a greater and more urgent need for philanthropy.”


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