Modern Philanthropy Adapts to Make a Real Difference

Over the years, the world of philanthropy has drastically changed. Through trial and error, we’ve come to a point where we can begin leveraging new ways to engage with local populations and improve recruitment via 21st century tools like social media. We are entering a golden age; a crucial time in the philanthropy industry when the sick, hungry, and poor are benefiting like never before. These strides would not have been possible without people like Bill and Melinda Gates, and the new generation philanthropists they inspire.

With a new generation comes vigor and a fresh perspective on the age-old problem of how to solve the world’s issues with limited resources. Successors to the likes of Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Nobel, modern philanthropists have been able to expand their reach as rapidly as economies in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Business leaders have been encouraged, and to some degree, persuaded by peers, to use their wealth for good. They have established numerous foundations in underrepresented or impoverished areas. Often, the primary motivation for this action is good press and an improved reputation among consumers. Philanthropy can actually be very good business.

Individuals like Mo Ibrahim and Tony Elumelu have been able to provide necessary local context to the needs and sensibilities of smaller constituencies. For example, the Ibrahim Foundation has shed light on African governance and development through four key initiatives: the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), Ibrahim Forum, Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, and the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship. Centering conversation on African leadership improves governing process and overall leadership quality.

Along the same lines, the Gates Foundation has set the precedent for what a stable, ethical, and effective philanthropic endeavor entails. Bill and Melinda Gates have built an organization that “works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives” in developing countries. With multiple teams based in Washington D.C., London, the Middle East, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, New Delhi, and more, the Gates Foundation has been able to tackle world issues pertaining to Malaria, HIV, Agricultural Development, Nutrition, and much more.

While many wealthy business and thought leaders continue to keep their philanthropic efforts private, we’ve see a strong upward trend of bigger donations, better strategy, and more empathy. Adapting to the modern context of social issues will require continued and focused efforts, but leaders in philanthropy are already well on their way to setting the right example. The next generation of philanthropist will surely lead the way.