Activist Philanthropy and Innovative Family Structures

Philanthropy is often an essential feature in family office portfolios but can be passively managed compared to investments, despite a very clear need for specific outcomes and goals. In the case of a few innovative families, there’s a new breed of activist philanthropists who are going beyond the call of duty to make meaningful change.
activist philanthropy

What you need to know

  • Philanthropy features commonly in family office portfolios and while many consider this an important duty, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach or a standard to help families decide where best to give.
  • As a result, this can lead to a number of issues that end up harming the overall mission to improve or help a charity.
  • If family offices want to make a meaningful change, they should look to embrace an activist philanthropy mindset.
Philanthropy Updated on October 21, 2022

Philanthropy is commonplace in family office portfolios. Being around hundreds of family offices, first from the philanthropic side and then the internal and impact side can give great insight into the context of philanthropy. While many families consider philanthropy to be an important duty, there is a difference between those who view it with purpose and those who view it as an obligation. Every family is different and there is no universal or “best practice” standard for how families decide how to give and where to take on leadership roles.

However, with there being no standard, there are also trends both in terms of intergenerational challenges and the practice itself. The world is also full of excuses such as: The nonprofit sector is broken,” “It’s all corrupt” or We give enough to what we care about”. At times, there can be a sense of despondency, but it shouldn’t deter you from giving, and ideally if one leans into being an activist philanthropist, you will find more value than the check alone.

Activist philanthropists are different

And to me, they are the truest of philanthropists because they actively engage and problem solve using their time and resources rather than just writing a check. They do more than sit on boards – they strategise, and they lead by example and know their philanthropic field as well as the professionals they support. They travel to where their resources are needed and look to understand the underlying problem.

About the Authors

David Homan

David Homan

Communications & reputation management

David Homan is the CEO and Founder of Orchestrated Connecting, LLC, co-founder of Orchestrated Opportunities, and runs an 800+ member community of "connectors."

Connect with David Homan

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