Stanford Social Innovation Review (2023)
In “Disciplining Generosity,” an excerpt from “Advising Philanthropists: Principles and Practice” by Beth Breeze, Director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, and her colleague Emma Beeston (Philanthropy Advisor), the role of philanthropy advisors in fostering effective and sustainable social innovation is explored. This article, particularly relevant to nonprofit researchers and practitioners, highlights the growing significance of these advisors in shaping philanthropic giving. The authors emphasize how philanthropy advisors, like those from the Bridgespan Group who guided MacKenzie Scott’s significant contributions, play a critical role in enhancing the impact of philanthropy. Through their 48 combined years of experience in fundraising, grant-making, and philanthropy advising, Beeston and Breeze draw on interviews with 40 advisors across 15 countries to shed light on the profession. Their work reveals how these advisors are integral in encouraging more and better philanthropic giving, which is essential for addressing social and environmental challenges.
The article delves into the complexities of the advisory role, discussing how advisors navigate ethical dilemmas and influence donors to make strategic and impactful contributions. Advisors not only guide donors in choosing effective organizations and projects but also challenge them to think critically about their giving practices. This includes addressing donors’ preconceptions, encouraging strategic collaboration, and promoting equitable and just philanthropic practices. By doing so, advisors play a pivotal role in mitigating social problems and enhancing the overall efficacy of philanthropic efforts. The article underscores the importance of this profession in the broader philanthropic ecosystem, stressing the need for advisors to balance client service with a commitment to broader societal good. It suggests that the future of effective philanthropy may well hinge on the skill and insight of these crucial advisors.