6 May 2020

In episode 75, we explore the benefits of historical insight, highlight some of the main challenges civil society organisations right now, and consider the most important questions to ask as we look ahead to the future. Including:

  • Centralization: What can we learn from C18th Hamburg and WWI in the UK about how crises lead to a desire to rationalise philanthropy?
  • How do views on the causes of crises affect the philanthropic response? Religious views on plagues and the role of charity, and how the understanding of epidemic illness affects collectivism and mutualism.
  • Poverty, Power and Inequality: The unequal effects of crises and the dangers- does philanthropy entrench inequality, or can it help to overcome it?

Key current trends

  • With reduced income but increased demand many organisations are in survival mode
  • Universal nature of crisis makes fundraising ask more complex (i.e. not “them”, but “us”)
  • Enforced pivot to digital - how do you adapt to new tools and avoid pitfalls?
  • Funder behaviour: unrestricted grants, core-cost funding, reduced reporting, trust-based grantmaking
  • Collaboration, cooperation and coordination
  • New digitally-enabled networks emerging alongside traditional charities


What might the future hold?

  • Will we see a shift in public expectations of state vs philanthropic provision?
  • Will there be a rebalancing of the mutual vs charitable tradition?
  • Philanthro-localism or philanthro-globalism?
  • Will the reputation of philanthropy improve or deteriorate?
  • Are decentralised and networked organisational models an opportunity or a threat for civil society?
  • Does the response to the pandemic highlight an unmet desire for participation?
  • Will the current period of enforced digitisation lead to more CSOs engaging with the opportunities and challenges of technology?
  • Is the short-term imperative to meet critical need going to lead to a longer-term desire to rationalise philanthropy?
  • Will we see more transparency and sharing of data?
  • Are we seeing the end of organisational ego in philanthropy?
  • Will there be longer-term changes in attitudes to core costs, unrestricted grants and reporting requirements?
  • Will we see a shift in perception/norms with regard to endowed assets?
  • Will there be more recognition of the need for foresight among funders and civil society?
  • Will the crisis create new problems for civil society to address?
Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society. Launched in 2017 it is recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate.  Rhodri Davies director of our Giving Thought Think Tank hosts the podcast, discussing contemporary issues and interviewing sector experts. Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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