Creating Lasting Change

Expert opinion

How can philanthropy make a permanent difference? How to achieve lasting change? Do philanthropists consider a sustainable, long-term outcome, or are they more emotional about their giving?

Resoundingly, philanthropists declare their goal to be effecting permanent change, according to a survey of 457 philanthropists conducted by Forbes Insights and BNP Paribas Wealth Management. In fact, achieving a sustainable outcome is the second most important reason influencing their giving globally, after the cause. How to achieve a sustainable outcome is the topic of this year’s report from BNP Paribas Wealth Management and Forbes Insights. The reports looks at philanthropy through a pragmatic lens—examining, for instance, the problem of securing funding—but it also takes a broader perspective and considers the correlation between a philanthropist’s own lifestyle and a social commitment to achieving sustainable outcomes.

Interviews with philanthropists from around the world illustrate how they try to ensure they will make a lasting change in terms of creating impact on the ground as well as the longevity of their charitable organization. Some of the report’s findings are:

Outcomes: Philanthropists aim high. The main outcome they seek to achieve is a sustainable program/initiative that is creating or funding an organization that provides ongoing assistance (70%). That is followed by, when possible, eradicating the problem completely (68%). a self-sustaining program initiative, such as teaching skills so that beneficiaries can make a profit, lags at 45%.

Funding: Sustainable outcomes are not possible without a continuous money flow. Securing steady, ongoing funding is thus the most favored method of financing projects (70%). This is followed by creating a self-sustaining organization, or a charity that can make a profit and keep it going (57%). There is global agreement that ongoing fundraising is the least desirable form of funding (19%)

Collaboration: Working with another philanthropic organization is by far the surest way to achieve a sustainable outcome (54%). The extremes—either collaborating with multiple entities (17%) or going solo (26%)—are not seen as effective. Interestingly, cooperation with the government also did not get high marks (23%), even though in conversations philanthropists tend to stress that partnering with the government can lead to a significant scaling up or be a very effective exit strategy.

Giving and Living:  Is philanthropy separate, or is it an integral part of life? The opinions are evenly divided. For half of respondents, philanthropy and their lives are integrated, as they have their investments, business activities and lifestyles aligned with their philanthropic goals.

Giving and Society: Which comes first? Social commitment or giving? Social commitment and philanthropy are, in fact, deeply intertwined. So much so that it’s hard to delineate the cause-and-effect relationship between them. For roughly half of philanthropists, it is the social commitment that guides their philanthropy, and for the other half it is the reverse. While it may be hard to determine whether social commitment drives philanthropy or vice versa, it is the co-existence of both that leads to sustainable outcomes (65%).

Resources: Advisors are necessary to achieve sustainable results, according to a majority of philanthropists. Advisors are in the top five when ranked by effectiveness (58%), following family and focus area experts. 

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  • Philanthropy stats & trends