Thinking big, sometimes with little plans

Eleanor Cater
Executive Officer
Community Foundations of NZ

Philanthropy. It’s not a word we use so much at Community Foundations, where we prefer to talk about giving and generosity in communities, but it’s hard not to use the ‘P’ word when you have attended two philanthropy conferences in the past month – the thought-provoking Community Foundations of Canada conference in Victoria BC and the excellent Philanthropy NZ gathering here in Wellington last month. Both were, effectively, all about how to use philanthropy to shift power and to change the world.

Change is courageous and bold and the sector is moving towards trusting people closest to the problems to come up with the solutions. We need to build on our local relationships and let philanthropy move at the speed of that trust.

Youth voices. Women. Indigenous people. Ethnic minorities. Their voices are amplifying and it’s really encouraging to see. The future is more hopeful if we have the people in communities deciding what they need and involved in shaping their own future.

Which is why community philanthropy – or strategic generosity in communities – is so very important.

In the big picture I think we need to operate more mindfully, integrating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into our work where we can. Thinking big, sometimes with little plans; encouraging change can be one step at a time – for example, challenging our own assumptions and taking someone else with us.

If we can collectively grow the philanthropic pie – effectively growing generosity – and, together with our donors, distribute it more thoughtfully and with purpose, perhaps together we really can change the world.

One of my favourite quotes from Canada was from Edgar Villanueva: “Money is medicine, you can use it to heal”. Across the world the accumulation of wealth has resulted in a lot of trauma, but it can also be used for a sacred purpose. We give money its meaning and its power and, well, money can be our medicine too.

We can align money with our values, rethinking the role of money as a healing medicine, a power for both our health – yes, giving away money has health benefits! – and the wellbeing of our society.

Thinking big, sometimes with little plans. One conversation at a time we can help insightful and generous people to do great, changemaking work across Aotearoa New Zealand. That is philanthropy. Aroha.

Date Posted: 23 Aug 2019

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