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Predictions for 2020: Philanthropy


Wednesday, 5th February 2020 at 4:49 pm
Sarah Davies
Sarah Davies AM shares a few thought starters on what we can expect from philanthropy over the coming year – including what we want to change, and what we want to keep – as part of a series of predictions from leading experts across the social sector.


Wednesday, 5th February 2020
at 4:49 pm
Sarah Davies


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Predictions for 2020: Philanthropy
Wednesday, 5th February 2020 at 4:49 pm

Sarah Davies AM shares a few thought starters on what we can expect from philanthropy over the coming year – including what we want to change, and what we want to keep – as part of a series of predictions from leading experts across the social sector.

The start of a new decade is a natural time to look forward and try to identify what the future might hold, and which trends and signals will gain traction and become forces that genuinely shape our experiences and world. It’s a time to reflect on what we want to change and just as important, what we want to keep; what hasn’t worked; what could do with a bit more work, and what we know has value. 

So where does that leave philanthropy in Australia at the start of 2020? What are our goals and plans for the new year and the new decade? And what signals are likely to turn into forces and practices that we will want or need to address or embrace?

Here are a few thought starters…

  • The growing understanding and deployment of effective and strong advocacy will continue. Our confidence is building and we are increasingly adept and practiced at using a range of advocacy tools and approaches to pursue positive change. Like any successful strategy, we’ll want more.
  • We will increasingly think about all our work in the context of systems and system change. We know we strive for impact, and the more we review, evaluate and reflect on our work and its effects, the more we will have to consider the patterns and systems within which we operate.
  • The early conversations we have started about philanthropy and its power – its origin, how to recognise it, how to use it, how to share it, how to divest it – will mature and expand as we look for ways to embed lived experience and authentic community voice into the development of our strategies and decision making. Participatory grantmaking is intriguing and our “early adopters” are experimenting now with different approaches and models. We’ll learn from them and evolve our own approaches.
  • Good, robust relationships and partnerships have always been a critical success factor for effective philanthropy. The complexity and nature of these partnerships will evolve to match the challenge and complexity of the change we are chasing.
  • We will increasingly embrace and share philanthropy’s “soft powers” of convening, influencing, challenging and championing. As per Jeremy Heimans’ New Power, we will regularly swarm together, not just to collectively fund, but to collectively advocate and influence for change.
  • Using all our financial assets to fund and drive change is hitting the mainstream: impact investing, mission-related investing, social finance models, etc.
  • And as we get better at understanding what it takes to make sustainable, scalable and lasting change, we will be more vocal and active in paying what it takes to get there – investing in the capacity and capability of the individuals and organisations delivering the change, supporting and developing the infrastructure behind the programs and activities.
  • This summer has cruelly reinforced the need to include a natural environment and climate lens in all our work. Philanthropy is perfectly placed to support and incubate solutions to enable an equitable transition to a more sustainable future.

That leads me to never miss an opportunity to bang on about what we need to keep. 

We have to continue to play the heck out of the unique characteristics that philanthropy enjoys: its freedom, its risk tolerance, its ability to fund the things no other dollar can fund, its boundary-less time horizon, its lack of agenda or obligation to politics. Granted, we must balance these privileges with being accountable and transparent, sharing our knowledge, lessons and resources – but these behaviours in turn build our effectiveness. 

Finally, we have a great opportunity to grow giving and philanthropy in this new decade. 

First, the breathtaking generosity Australians (and others) have shown this summer reinforces we want to give, we have the capacity to give and we are looking for a sense of agency and contribution. We need to grow the understanding of philanthropy as a continuation of this reflexive generosity, through planned and structured giving, with design and intent, and with the engagement and fulfillment of doing so collectively. Second, Australia is looking at the greatest intergenerational transfer of wealth ever – $2.4 trillion over the next 15 to 20 years. We need to capture a healthy chunk of this to build the next wave of Australian philanthropy. 

So, let’s get to it!

See also:

Predictions for 2020: Shared Value

Predictions for 2020: Co-ops and mutuals


Sarah Davies  |  @Sarah_K_Davies

Sarah Davies is the CEO of Philanthropy Australia


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