Philanthropy Blog: Reflection and Planning – Philanthropic Strategy in 2022

January 10, 2022
New Year 2022

I write this as we enter the new year, typically a time to reflect on the year past and make predictions for the year ahead. The last two years have been anything but normal. The enduring pandemic has reinforced skepticism about predicting the future and necessitated the adoption of a “we’ll see” attitude. But there are some constants that have emerged from our philanthropic advisory practice, as well as some adaptations over the last two years, that are worth sharing and celebrating as we close out another unpredictable year and launch into another year where anything can happen.

There is no one size fits all model of giving.

There is so much written about how to approach your giving to ensure strategic philanthropy. In our experience, these can serve as guide posts and strategies to help maximize giving, yet every donor is different. Their goals and passions as well as their strategies for how best to approach their giving vary from family to family. Legacy and impact mean different things to different people. Our role as advisors is to help donors do the best giving they can based on their interests and passions as well as to respond to what is happening in the world.

Donor intent matters.

Donors are passionate about the causes and organizations they support. They want to support good work in the issue areas about which they care most. This has grown and deepened during the pandemic, with some donors realizing how inequities impact important social issues, from health care access to education and the environment. For some donors, this also means aligning their investments and other ways they deploy capital to their charitable giving mission and values.

Relationships matter.

Donors look to community leaders and organizations to help them understand complex issues and work collaboratively towards solutions. Donors are also building relationships with leaders beyond their typical networks to include those with lived experience related to the challenges they are trying to address. Donors are addressing symptoms as well as root causes of complex social issues and need broad and diverse networks in order to do so effectively.

Flexibility and adaptability are key.

We have all learned to be flexible and adaptable in the face of constantly changing conditions in 2020 and 2021, and there is no indication that should change in 2022. More donors are making sure to reserve space in their plans for unexpected, emergent, or timely matters. These can be natural disasters, emergency social needs, or addressing the unexpected (say for example a global pandemic). The instability of the past two years has caused donors to reexamine many of their historical assumptions. Mission and strategy are important, but so are listening and adapting. Donors appear more comfortable with increased fluidity in their grantmaking. We saw this clearly when many donors began to address racial inequity in their giving in 2020 and 2021 in ways they had not previously done.

Hope persists.

We cannot do the work that we do without a guiding vision of hope for our world. Philanthropy (translated from the Greek as “love for humanity”) must work towards a vision of a better, more just, equitable, and peaceful world, which cannot be accomplished without hope. This has been consistently tested over the last two years, but quoting Bishop Desmond Tutu, who died in 2021, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

Amidst all of this we see a call to action for 2022. We hope that donors retain flexibility, open mindedness, and humility in the face of changing conditions, continue to expand access for historically marginalized people and communities, and continue to approach persistent social challenges with an eye towards alleviating present suffering while at the same time addressing strategy and root cause.

We wish you clarity of vision and light amidst the darkness as we enter into 2022.

About the Author

Gioia Perugini is Director of Philanthropic Services at Hemenway & Barnes. She works with individuals, families, advisors, charitable trusts and foundations to provide a range of philanthropic advisory and client services.

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