If you missed Marie-Louise’s previous column on what donors can learn from #Partygate, catch up here.
Philanthropy Right Now:
Frameworks for confidence
‘Philanthropy Right Now’ is a monthly column for Beacon Collaborative by Marie-Louise Gourlay, Managing Director of Europe for The Philanthropy Workshop. In this month’s column, Marie-Louise Gourlay considers the importance of clear frameworks for donors on their philanthropic journey.
Next month we’re bringing together the TPW community for the first time in two years at our Global Summit in Toronto. It’s not been without critical decisions on how best to ensure that we can come together safely and with purpose.
As Covid-related restrictions lift, people are looking to us to provide clear instructions about how to interact, what to expect, and how their needs are going to be met. There’s a sense that failing to do this may leave people without a set of parameters to operate within.
If you don’t meet the tacit group codes and norms, a sense of belonging can be elusive, destroying the potential for a successful gathering with lasting impact.
Without mandated guidelines, it’s up to one’s own interpretation and comfort level as to how to act. As this varies from person to person, it can create a deep sense of discomfort and mistrust of those around you.
When the UK entered its third lockdown early last year, I read the book ‘The Art of Gathering: How we Meet and Why it Matters’ by Priya Parker. A lasting takeaway was the need to be intentional about how we come together – not just in terms of content, but in creating a space where everyone feels they can belong.
Parker puts forward the notion that we need to switch ‘etiquette’ for ‘rules’. Etiquette can be exclusive – if you don’t meet the tacit group codes and norms, a sense of belonging can be elusive, destroying the potential for a successful gathering with lasting impact.
Rules, however, can be clearly stated, enabling people to know what the expectations are, and setting the scene for different groups to come together meaningfully.
Providing a framework, whether for gathering, for philanthropy or for anything else, is a necessary starting point to orient anyone in a forward direction. And having established rules – even if you choose to deviate from them – gives you that starting point; a shared understanding, a springboard.
We’re often asked, “can you just give me some tools?’, or ‘where can I find online guidelines for philanthropy?’.
Often, when people are at an early stage in their philanthropic journey, there can be much trepidation, coupled with low level self-confidence. We’re often asked, “can you just give me some tools?’, or ‘where can I find online guidelines for philanthropy?’.
Whilst the desire to create impact is usually there for new donors, there’s an underestimation both of the time and the complexity of societal systems.
This can mean that some well-intentioned potential philanthropists fall at the first hurdle. It all seems too much; too long; too complicated. And that’s what we, within this sector, need to address.
There’s a journey that all individuals – irrespective of the size of their philanthropy – have to go on, to understand our own role, our personal values and what’s driving us. To explore where and when we can contribute and where and when we should step back and cede power to enable impact.
There’s a journey that all individuals – irrespective of the size of their philanthropy – have to go on.
Conterminously, the sector needs to ensure that we are creating, driving and sharing frameworks and best practice across all of our organisations.
We should be enabling people not only to have a starting point they can launch from, but continued guidance about what works throughout their philanthropic journey.
Complex theory lacking in practical examples, compounded by the jargon that we all use (coming back to tacit understandings, and a sense of exclusion if you don’t ‘speak the language’) is not going to help.
I know I do it – use words that one hopes make one sound like an expert, but in reality, we’re missing the target, building barriers where there should be bridges.
A simplification of the world of philanthropy would be very welcome, bringing an evolving & relevant understanding of how we come together and how we collaborate; one in which we can each take a seat at the table, knowing that everyone’s perspective is vital & different.
[We need to] develop frameworks and guidance which are accessible for all.
We need to step forward confidently and develop frameworks and guidance which are accessible for all. In doing so, we can make use of the multiplier effect of community and collaboration to change systems exponentially.
Marie-Louise Gourlay is the Managing Director of Europe for The Philanthropy Workshop. Find out more about The Philanthropy Workshop’s activity here.