“My wish for 2022: Philanthropy embraces common ground” by Emma Beeston

We’re ending the year in style with consecutive blogs from Clarity CIC, which you can read HERE, and Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy, who has provided today’s blog.

Through her consultancy service, Emma advises grant-makers, companies and families on creating and implementing giving strategies. For further information about Emma’s work and to book a free 30-minute consultation, please visit her website.

Emma’s final blog for 2021 is a plea to find common ground, which probably applies to all us whatever our vocation. You can read more of Emma’s blogs on the Insight page of her website.

“My wish for 2022: Philanthropy embraces common ground”

“Instead of making a prediction for philanthropy in 2022, I’d like to make a wish: let 2022 be the year we celebrate the opportunities found in common ground. This gets forgotten in our increasingly polarised world where we divide ourselves into opposing camps. For example, a recent study found that in the UK the perception of division between the wealthier and the poor has increased from 49% in May 2020 to 67% in June 2021.

“In philanthropy, choices are often positioned in a polarised way: moonshot philanthropy vs collective giving; data-driven vs trust-based approaches; local vs global; immediate relief vs tackling root causes. When advocating for a particular approach the arguments can come across as if there is only one right way to do philanthropy. For example, some champion the idea that the current needs are so great that philanthropists should give all their money away now. This is behind the increase in foundations spending down and the #HalfMyDAF campaign, which seek to mobilise more resources to address immediate social needs and climate change. On the other side are impassioned arguments for a long-term view, such as the Patient Philanthropy Project which is pooling resources for long-term gains so that funds are ready in the future “when an extraordinary time, need or opportunity arises”.

“There is a lot to be said for understanding the pros and cons of each extreme and then ending up somewhere in between. And perhaps we are not as polarised as the media and social media would have us believe. The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project found that people seemed divided when you take an identity lens. For example, 62% of those on the left considered themselves feminist while 70% of the right did not. However, when they focussed on issues, there was much more common ground. For example, the majority of those on both the left and the right take the view that promoting equality for women is a priority. The researchers concluded “that far from being poles apart, people tend to cluster somewhere in between”.

“Somewhere in the middle will be the right approach for each philanthropist and foundation, given all the different factors that come to bear on their decision-making. How they give will depend on their values, the source and size of their money, their attitude to risk, who else they are accountable to, the field in which they work. What they support will depend on what the government is or isn’t doing in their chosen cause area and what will work best given the local needs and culture. These differences result in a variety of philanthropic approaches to be celebrated. There is room for everyone within each and every area, people who fund direct help, ambitious long-term change, capacity building, iconic buildings and those backing campaigns and social movements are all valuable.

“There is some accepted good practice, like working in genuine partnership with those delivering the work and listening to communities, that all donors should follow. But let’s stop arguing about which philanthropic extreme is right and come together somewhere in the middle, where we might not be so different in what we want to achieve.”

Further reading

The Nuffield Foundation: Social Cohesion in the Context of COVID-19.
The Guardian opinion article: “Be reassured the world is not as divided as we might think
by  and 

Image: Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy