Both/And…For a New Culture of Philanthropy

Over the course of Conversation 2010, we sought to more clearly recognize the multiple tensions and the seeming dichotomies that exist. Some of those tensions stem from development professionals feeling liberated by “whole system” conversations, yet feeling that “the reality is” and “at the end of the day” development work is “all about the money.” After repeated exploration, we came to see that this perspective is unconsciously sapping the energy from people—development professionals, organizational leaders, and the donors/partners themselves. It becomes unintentionally and unnecessarily limiting of choices and learning. The cornerstone question of “what is most important about this moment” creates for us an opportunity for reflection and a new opening. Rather, we came to recognize this as a “both/and” situation. It is both the reality that many people have an expectation that development folks (in their silo) should just go raise money and it’s an opportunity to say that in order to perform in a richer, more robust, and more fulfilling way, we have to re-perceive the culture and practice of philanthropy. We cede the higher ground when we lose the both/and and end up submitting to the sole and narrow expectation that it is the responsibility of one team or unit to raise money. Storytelling helps accomplish this.

(graphic by Ken Hubbell)

We have to have a different type of conversation. To bring about a new culture of philanthropy and a deeper appreciation of philanthropy, we have to lengthen the time and thought horizon. While this won’t solve the immediate demands of the quantifiable scorecard keepers, it seems to be the right thing to do and may be the only real alternative left. We’re stuck having to change the way we perceive the world. We must reframe the development tension in the most creative way we can—through the processes, the tools, and the metrics. Horizons need to be reconsidered. As long as you are held captive by the old world’s rules, you won’t break through.

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