U.S.A Philanthropy Tour

29 Nov 2015

In May this year, I had the pleasure travelling to the US with our CEO, Simon Freeman, and board members Michael Siddle and Peter Evans. We went to learn about America’s philanthropy landscape, and to broaden our understanding of philanthropic strategies and concepts.

Sharna Goldseker, from 21/64, kindly coordinated our trip from Seattle to San Francisco and facilitated many of our discussions. We visited many of the leading private Foundations in the country – from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the David & Lucille Packard Foundation. Regardless of their size, location and prominence, every organisation taught us something important they’d learned from their years working in philanthropy.

A common theme was leverage. Many of the senior staff we spoke to highlighted the importance of Foundations thinking more broadly about their points of leverage and how they can be used to benefit grantees. What new strategies are available to us and how can we combine them with traditional methods of grant-making to produce more innovative solutions?

Two excellent examples were capacity building and venture philanthropy. Although these concepts appeared foreign in a not-for-profit context, they show how commercial principles can be applied to achieve broader social outcomes. If we as a Foundation have resources that smaller organisations can’t access, how can we utilise them as a source of giving and as a means to build organisational capacity?

During our visit, we were also encouraged to think in a more catalytic way about funding. Should we leverage our voice to validate the spaces where we work? To be influencers and attract additional support for the ideas and innovations that we champion? What role can our Foundation play as a neutral convenor, in addition to traditional grant making activities?

We’ve come a long way since the trip, but six months on, it’s still delivering value. It continues to inform our perspective and our vision for the Foundation. And I, personally, now have a much more well-rounded view of the power and potential of philanthropy in our country.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation would like to thank the following organisations and their representatives for their hospitality

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The Russell Family Foundation
  • The Seattle Foundation
  • The Walter and Elise Hass Fund
  • The David & Lucile Packard Foundation
  • The Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • Tipping Point Community
  • The Durfee Foundation

author Charlotte Siddle, Project Manager