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What It Means to Be a 21st Century Philanthropist

21 September 2016 at 9:34 am
Ellie Cooper
The breaking down of silos between the Not for Profit and for-profit worlds is changing the face of philanthropy, according to the 2016 leading philanthropist Audette Exel AO.

Ellie Cooper | 21 September 2016 at 9:34 am


What It Means to Be a 21st Century Philanthropist
21 September 2016 at 9:34 am

The breaking down of silos between the Not for Profit and for-profit worlds is changing the face of philanthropy, according to the 2016 leading philanthropist Audette Exel AO.

Exel, founder of the Adara Group, a for-purpose business that funds the core-support costs of the Adara Foundation, will speak at the Philanthropy Australia National Conference on Wednesday about innovative philanthropy.

She told Pro Bono Australia News the philanthropy sector had always been at the forefront of change, and this openness needed to continue.

“Being a 21st century philanthropist is figuring out how, in our current context, we can use the resources we have,” Exel said.

“Whether that’s the money we have, whether it’s a skill we have or the time we have, whether it’s the companies that we run, figuring out how we can use those resources to affect positive change in the current context that we operate in.

“A hundred years ago the context was incredibly different to the context we’re operating in now. But philanthropists were still innovating, they were still doing things that were leading the way, they were still sitting on frontiers, they were just doing it in a very different context.”

Exel said 21st century philanthropists were operating in a context of a globalised economy and “incredible global disparity” in terms of income distribution.

She also said this was made more acute by an age of “radical transparency” and the internet, which creates both risks and opportunities.

But she said philanthropists were already adapting to the new context.

“We’re seeing that in a number of different ways by using the tools that the 21st century gives us,” she said.

“The most evident one of that is the internet and radical transparency and we see that for instance with the crowdfunding movement, and different ways of thinking about raising funding for vulnerable clients or important needs.”

Another key societal change which requires innovation in philanthropy is the evolution of business.

Exel said business was redefining itself and starting to put concepts of philanthropy and purpose at its centre.

“I think philanthropists can use the changing expectations and role of business in the world as part of their bag of tricks,” she said.

“We’re also seeing, and again a lot of this is coming from this globalised technology-enabled economy that we’re living in… the breaking down of barriers and the breaking down of silos.

“The Not for Profit sector is no longer completely separate from the for-profit sector, or from the government sector or from other sectors of society.

“We’re seeing cross-sector, cross-discipline hybrid models, and so I think one of the key tools that we will see philanthropists use in this context is tools of partnership. I think we’re going to see many more collaborations and partnerships across sectors and across disciplines than we’ve ever seen before, and that is an incredibly good thing because boy do we need it as a world.”

However, she said the core principles of traditional philanthropy should always be held onto.

“If you come back to the number one key thing about philanthropy, it’s honouring the concept of giving to others, and that giving can be done in different ways, but it’s honouring giving as the highest expression of humanity,” she said.  

“I worry that in the excitement of innovative philanthropy, that sometimes we can disparage the concept of charity, disparage the concept of traditional philanthropy, disparage the concept of giving, and I think that’s a fundamental mistake.

“At the cornerstone of the evolution of society and growth is the concept of reaching out to others and giving. So we should never, ever lose sight of that.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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