In this series, we take a look at the current news impacting the nonprofit sector, specifically fundraising. Our intention is not to be reactive, but to be proactive in our analysis of the news and consider how fundraising and philanthropic efforts can improve outcomes and adapt to meet the times.
This week: Why Philanthropy Requires More Than Money, Gates Foundation Persuades Ultra-Wealthy Donors To Give More Of Their Billions, and MacKenzie Scott Shows A Better Way To Do Higher Ed Philanthropy.
Why Philanthropy Requires More Than Money (Via Wharton)
In 2019, The Trevor Project received a $1.5 million grant to build a queueing system that uses artificial intelligence to prioritize callers who are most at risk. The system analyzes language that comes through calls, chats and texts to the helpline, then it moves callers who use red-flag words to the top of the queue. According to Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink, director of product impact at Google.org: “We are thinking about how technology can be a force for positive change in our society.”
Analysis: A recent shift in the nonprofit space has been asking donors to fund certain projects, which in years past has meant events, new buildings, or making a new hire. However as the world moved online, organizations are turning to their donors to fund investments in technology to enable the organization to stay on the cutting edge of new tech and carry out its mission in new ways.
In a time of global pandemic, economic crisis and rising unemployment, the Gates Foundation’s most surprising philanthropic target is a group often overlooked by donors: billionaires themselves. In all, the Gates Foundation has given nearly $18 Million to programs aimed at encouraging greater giving by high- and ultra-high net worth individuals in the last five years alone. “The goal is to drive as much impact at scale as possible and to create a set of vehicles that enable philanthropists to do that,” says Jennifer Stout, a Gates Foundation deputy director.
Analysis: Many billionaires that signed the Giving Pledge are frustrated with their peers that have either signed the pledge but have not made any philanthropic moves, or even refused to sign it. The Gates Foundation is encouraging more donors that have the ability to give at a high level to participate in philanthropy before the Giving pledge requires them to do so - which is when they die.
MacKenzie Scott, author and the first accountant at Amazon, is leading a new wave of individual social impact philanthropy. Late in 2020, she announced her latest round of almost $6 billion in charitable gifts, bringing to more than $800 million her total donations to higher education in just one year. The unprecedented scale and pace of her giving isn’t the most impressive part of her actions. Her donations are data-driven and promote the public good rather than simply personal preference or self-interest.
Analysis: Scott's giving in the Higher Ed space shows that interest in giving can be based on more factors than just an alumni tie to the school. Her approach was based on giving her money the best possible chance to make a difference, which relies on having trust in leadership of the organizations she is giving to. Who better to decide what to use the money for than the people that directly benefit from it?
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