The Future of Philanthropy

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By: Sana Johnson, 2017-2018 Work First Fellow


On Tuesday, November 28th an audience of philanthropists, business professionals, fundraisers, social entrepreneurs, and researchers gathered for a discussion hosted by Axios News Shapers on the future of philanthropy. Mike Allen, the Co-founder and Executive Editor of Axios, emceed the event, which consisted of short interviews with four leaders in this space: Jordan Hewson, Founder and CEO of Speakable; Petra Nemcova, Founder and CEO of All Hands and Hearts; Carrie Rich, Founder and CEO of The Global Good Fund; Janet Scardino, the CEO of Comic Relief USA; and Henry Timms, the Executive Director of 92nd Street Y and the Founder of #GivingTuesday. 


Taking the stage one-by-one, each guest answered questions about the inspiration behind their organizations, how their enterprises were born out of or have adjusted to the changing philanthropic landscape, and how they imagine philanthropy will evolve in the future. 


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Jordan Hewson shared that her organization Speakable, whose mission is to “change the headlines,” was born out of her desire to empower people to take action in support of the causes they care about. She expressed her experience reading headlines about the latest natural disaster or social cause, but failing to take the step to sign a petition or navigate onerous donation systems. So, she developed a product that helps connect NGOs with their supporters. 


Hewson predicted that the millennial-dominated future of philanthropy will be more issue-driven than we have seen in the past. She noted that millennials are largely issue-based consumers who really consider the causes supported by the businesses they patron. Hewson predicted that because of this trend, we will start to see more voter-influenced corporate philanthropy, where customers decide where corporate dollars will go.

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Comic Relief USA’s CEO Janet Scardino offered insights from a different perspective. In his introduction of Scardino, Mike Allen proclaimed that she “revolutionized the telethon.” Scardino contextualized his statement by explaining that how the (then) new methods of outreach, such as Facebook’s live streaming and donation button options, enabled Comic Relief to increase donations to their annual Red Nose Day campaign.

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Another notable speaker was Henry Timms, the Executive Director of 92nd Street Y and the Founder of #GivingTuesday. Timms’ take on the future of philanthropy emphasized the importance of empowering individuals. He, along with guest Carrie Rich, noted the recent shift away from donating to causes towards donating to enhance the capacity and leadership of the individuals heading those causes. Investment in social entrepreneurship, they believe, will feature heavily in the future of philanthropy.


While working for an issue-based organization it can be easy to focus solely on changes within your issue area. Responsible nonprofits, social enterprises, and philanthropic organizations must also track the evolution of giving as well to ensure that their programs, products or dollars are doing the most good for the most people.