Leadership Summit on Global Philanthropy 2011

The topic of global philanthropy has increased in interest over the last couple of years and has resulted in a rich abundance of discussion and exchange all over the world particularly between the robust philanthropic traditions of the west in the United States and Europe. On February 17th through February 19th, 2011 the George H. Heyman, Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at New York University hosted an insightful International Summit that brought together many of the great women and men who are leading this conversation and this field. As a very grateful participant in this event, I was intrigued by the many poignant presentations shared that weekend. The topic that captivated me the most was the Keynote Address by the English Ambassador for Philanthropy, Dame Shirley, entitled, “Giving Philanthropists a Voice Worldwide.”

In 2009, Dame Shirley was given the original position of “Ambassador for Philanthropy” by the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. While the appointment’s power is mainly the title, and receives no funding from the British Government, the creation of this position and the space surrounding it has made the United Kingdom a leader in a new conversation about how national government can be involved with philanthropic development. Dame Shirley and her Chief Executive, Roberta d’Eustachio, have since her appointment traveled about the English speaking world and together has garnered increased international interest in the role and function of an Ambassador for Philanthropy. During the presentation by Dame Shirley, she mentioned that they had even gained the interest of the White House during this visit to the United States.

What is so extraordinary about this movement is the rapid response it is receiving. There is a genuine interest in developing an organized way for the philanthropists of the world to tell about their giving through their own voices, their own life stories, and their own philanthropic reasoning. In a way, this medium created by the Ambassador of Philanthropy humanizes generosity and generates a deeper understanding of giving through hearing the voice behind the gift. Through the website and soon to be additional mediums, the Ambassador for Philanthropy has allowed philanthropists not only to be enablers and investors, but advocates and partners. This change in the relationship for the donor to philanthropy has captivated the attention of philanthropists who want to be increasingly more involved with their giving.

In addition to giving voice to philanthropists, Dame Shirley also said that the position of an Ambassador for Philanthropy allows for greater advocacy for the role of philanthropy to create change. Dame Shirley said in her address “Philanthropy leads, government follows.” I believe that positioning philanthropy into an “advocate for change” role is an additional reason the Ambassador for Philanthropy movement is getting such great traction. Increased philanthropy is needed in so many fields around the world. The two most noted by Dame Shirley in the United Kingdom were the arts and medical research. But it extends beyond domestic need. There are many philanthropists who are interested in work throughout the world and they understand that philanthropy will have to lead in order for there to be any change. David Erasmus, a featured philanthropist on the Ambassador for Philanthropy’s website said, “Who is my neighbor? In the old days maybe it was the guys down the street, but actually now it is these guys in Africa. I feel responsible to connect in and be a part of the solution.” Positioning philanthropy in this way really demonstrates the power and the responsibility philanthropy has for changing the world for the better.

In March 2012, the Ambassador for Philanthropy plans to host the first Global Summit in London to discuss the role and function of the Ambassador for Philanthropy with other interested states. The excitement surrounding this meeting cannot be contained in light of the incredible potential it will have over the growing field of international philanthropy. I anticipate the next steps of this wonderful department with much hope for the future.

D. Nichole Martini is the Associate Director of Program and Development at The Declaration Initiative. While currently working on poverty alleviation in the United States, her interest in philanthropy extends to strengthening the sector in the U.S. and abroad. Nichole is a 2010 graduate of New York University with an M.S. in Fundraising and Philanthropy

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