There has never been a more challenging time for philanthropy. Globalization, natural disasters, and economic turmoil have placed additional stresses on social safety nets already stretched to the max. In this environment, the philanthropic sector must be smarter, more adaptable, and more collaborative.
None of us has all the answers, but some innovative approaches to giving already have shown strong results. Our sector must focus on bringing about meaningful change to create sustainable value. In other words, we must move away from “checkbook charity” and toward an integrated approach to giving that includes volunteerism, contributions of expertise (including mentoring), and public-private partnerships that enable all participants to leverage their best assets in service to the greater good.
Here are some examples:
- In New York, a partnership among the corporate sector, the school system, and the community college system has created Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), an institution that prepares young people, starting in 9th grade, for tomorrow’s jobs and further education. P-TECH continues beyond 12th grade to confer both the high school diploma and an associate degree in technology. Each student and teacher at P-TECH is paired with a corporate mentor, and graduates will be first in line for entry-level jobs at the school’s corporate partner. Already being replicated in Chicago, the P-TECH model is designed to roll out in any locale where parents, teachers, students, and civic and corporate leaders are ready to forge a direct connection between education and jobs.
- In cities and communities across the United States and around the world, “citizen diplomats” are dedicating their time and expertise to help overcome some of the world’s toughest challenges. Among the subjects being discussed are economic development, public safety, health care, and digital connections to improve everything from education to access to public services.
- In Japan, where 23,000 people lost their lives and 84,000 lost their homes in last year’s earthquake and tsunami, contributions of technological expertise (not just cash) helped a devastated community reconnect, regroup, and begin the lengthy process of recovery.
These efforts, and their results, would not have been possible without public-private partnerships to tackle problems that are just too big for individual organizations to address. And those were just the headlines.
In the background, we must continue our work to educate and influence decision makers and the media about the sustainable value of what we do. This is most effectively accomplished by speaking with a unified voice. United, we can work together to forge new relationships and enhance existing ones. Together, we also can share the vision that guides us toward new ways of accomplishing our mission and new models for giving as philanthropy continues to evolve. See you at Foundations on the Hill!
Ann Cramer is Americas Director, IBM corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and chair of the Council’s Public Policy Committee. This post also appears on Forum’s Forum, a blog from the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.