September 26 2016
By Dr Squirrel Main
Last week, Philanthropy Australia’s national conference debated, ‘Is philanthropy future-ready?’ What was missing was a definition of ‘ready’. There are two definitions of the adjective:
I agree, as a sector, we are less than fully prepared. But what about the second definition? Consider this: We are not Marty McFly trapped in 2015. It is 2016. The sector has woken up, the future is now, and we are ready, willing, and eager.
The sheer volume of funders at the conference, eager to learn about new trends and ideas is proof enough. We heard Jason Franklin caution of the wave of backlash drowning the credibility of American foundations. But I am hopeful; I contend Australian philanthropy can ride the crest and harness the power of the popular groundswell to propel us forward. We are eager, but how to translate that to being fully prepared? Being a self-professed data geek, I look to the data & insight section of Philanthropy Australia (PA)’s strategic map:
‘To facilitate openness and transparency, including the efficiency collection, analysis and sharing of data and information and to initiate and promote strategic research in order to inform the work and direction of the philanthropic sector.’
Clearly, this is a sector willing to tackle the future when our peak body is moving towards openness and strategic research. And we have the nimbleness to adapt as new practices and opportunities come our way. The broad goals are propelling us. Admittedly, I worry we might drown in the implementation. The stated outcomes are vague:
Despite my questioning, I remain optimistic. Change is afoot. The sector is ready. Jose Pedro Ferrao contended that we focus on dollars raised, but I promise you I spend every working day thinking and talking about the outcomes created. At The Ian Potter Foundation, we are looking at data and we agree with Mae Hong’s advice. Our data show that our fully-funded multi-year capacity-building grants have the best outcomes. My position exists, we are collecting the data, and there is huge interest in the sector.
I will conclude this rant with the observation that ready has a third definition (adverb form!): ‘done in advance of being needed.’ We are willing, we are eager. Yes, the outcomes are vague and need to be tightened. But if we are to ride the wave, it’s time to get on our boards, take our chances, don’t look back, and move forward to the future.
This article was originally published in @lliance, 26 September 2016.