by Brandolon Barnett
Last week I headed to Austin, TX to host a meetup session at South by Southwest (SXSW) with Simone Gourguechon, my colleague and another Director with the Partner Solutions Consulting group here at Global Impact. The topic of the day’s discussion was “The Evolution of Global Philanthropy.” It was a great conversation with about 50 practitioners in what I broadly like to think of as the Social Impact space. In the room were staff from NGOs, social enterprises, corporate social responsibility teams, impact investment firms, and more. Together we talked about one central question: What will philanthropy look like in the 21st century?
Technological and social disruptions abound in virtually every industry in our society. We’ve witnessed the way Uber transformed our ability to get around town to the way Netflix has revolutionized how we stay home. The automation of many tasks, alongside a greater accessibility to more information and tools, is fundamentally changing the ways we live on a day to day basis. Now we are seeing changes in the way millennials and younger Gen Xers like to engage with charities when contrasted with baby boomers. In that context, no conversation around the Evolution of Global Philanthropy is complete without acknowledging one simple truth:
Philanthropy is not immune to these disruptions.
There are many ways that social impact work is evolving in response to these technological and social disruptions. We are seeing changes that range from the methods by which people encounter and engage with causes to the literal tools for transforming their passion into impact, and then to the mechanisms used to assess impact itself. Platforms affected even include the very social structures that we look to for positive change (B-Corps! Social Enterprise! Corporate Social Responsibility!) Add it all up and you’ve got a space that is facing as much disruption as any other.
In setting the stage for the conversation at SXSW, Simone and I offered this context and examples from our client work here at Global Impact to posit that the evolution of global philanthropy might be driven in many ways by a broad trend encouraging the convergence of functions and the democratization of tools.
Convergence and democratization
What does this phenomenon look like? The smartphone is a good example. Where once we all carried around a phone, business cards, a credit card, a laptop, an mp3 music player, a camera, a calculator…today, the smartphone can serve all of these functions. That’s convergence, as tools that were once separate become one. Where once powerful computers were cumbersome and expensive…today, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the average American carries a machine in her/his pocket that is thousands of times more powerful than the hulking relics that carried astronauts to the moon. That’s democratization.
Convergence and democratization are keys to the story of evolution of many technologies and industries, and a key point for our discussion, as we dove into the ways in which these two forces are integral to the story of 21st century philanthropy. Growfund is one great example of that story, having originated at the nexus of technology and social good. As a giving platform that enables everyday people the ability to save and plan for their giving, Growfund is converging separate forces to enable greater giving by marrying the power of investments and savings with new mechanisms for donor engagement and corporate social responsibility. Where once the tools for philanthropy were available only to wealthy individuals with $10,000 available to establish a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) or millions to create a private family foundation endowment, the Growfund platform is providing these tools to anyone who wants to give.
Giving where we live and work
Another great example of democratization and convergence in global philanthropy can be found in the American workplace. Where once we viewed our work, our volunteering, and our charitable giving as entirely separate parts of our lives, today they converge into one through modern corporate social responsibility. All around the country, companies are responding to their stakeholders – be they employees, shareholders, or local communities through processes like Global Impact’s Local 2 Global services – and making positive social impact a part of everyday business. Along with this, employees are increasingly coming to expect that volunteering and giving are part of their experience within a good company. Impact investing is yet another part of the story, as investment for profit converges with the desire for positive social impact and the means to do so is democratized and made available to ordinary investors through their 401K or their DAF.
There are many more examples, and as we discovered in the session, there are many effects resulting from this democratization and convergence that are worthy of discussion. Along with the rest of the team here, I’m proud to be on the forefront of that conversation and Global Impact’s efforts to innovate in global philanthropy through the work that we do with our clients and through the role that Growfund plays in changing the giving landscape.
Growfund is an online, community-based charitable giving tool. It was developed by Global Impact in an effort to democratize giving for the everyday person and put the tools and resources once available only to seasoned philanthropists into everyone’s hands. Growfund operates like 401(k) or a personal foundation, with funds able to be invested and grown over time so that donors can make a difference in the biggest possible way. Donors can start an account for free and their contributions are tax deductible immediately.