Now is the Time to Innovate Philanthropy

Now is the Time to Innovate Philanthropy

Chapter Leadership Brief 8.12.2022

By M. Angel Flores
Co-Vice Chair, Communications Committee


Our Existing Systems are Failing

The colonizing principles that defined our now-dying systems have been exposed as deeply flawed. The pandemic and civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder uncovered deep fault lines in our society disproportionally impacting Black and Brown people. We have seen a measure of justice recently for Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, but too many remain vulnerable. Simultaneously, many elected officials actively seek to rewrite history and sow doubt in our elections. We are dangerously close to seeing democracy die in favor of minority rule.

Most importantly, our planet is dying. The most marginalized populations globally are bearing the brunt of our collective overuse of natural resources, and many powerful leaders are ignoring the truth: that her survival is our survival.

Fundraisers must actively determine whether we are upholding or dismantling colonizer values in our practices; philanthropy is not immune to the effects of colonization. We can leverage our position at the intersection of humanity and money to shift binary thinking (either / or; us / them) to a growth mindset (“yes and”) by our approach.

Philanthropy and our Role as Wealth Stewards

Philanthropy is ripe for innovation. Several factors have converged to create a new paradigm, shifting our identity from fundraisers to wealth stewards. When we guide wealth with intention and care, we establish a two-way relationship, benefiting humanity as we enable our organizations to do their essential work.

As wealth stewards, we play a special role of connecting people with money to charities that use that money to achieve their missions. But what do we offer in exchange? Are our intentions equally concerned with the donor’s financial situation as our organization’s? Or do we often remain singularly focused on how our organization and, by extension, we can benefit?

The Soul of Money by activist and philanthropist Lynne Twist changed how I understood money. Twist describes money as a source of energy. The way in which money is requested and given will carry energetic intent: good, bad, or neutral. Edward Villanueva spoke similarly about money as medicine in Decolonizing Wealth. Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, was the closing keynote speaker at AFP ICON 2022. Salbi concluded by imploring the assembled wealth stewards to harness this people-powered movement to address collectively our most pressing societal challenges.

All three draw from their experiences in fundraising to reveal how philanthropy upholds colonizer values while also highlighting the incredible potential inherent in our work if we are brave enough to change how we work. Have we internalized these messages and acted accordingly? How can we show our love for humanity as wealth stewards?

One Specific Solution: The Benefits of Gift Planning Culture

Innovating philanthropy will take time. Leaning into gift planning culture allows any charity to evolve into an expression of our undeniable interconnection. This fundraising method requires the entire institution, including leadership, to commit to shifting organizational culture by offering creative giving options that allow donors of all income levels to give truly meaningful gifts. Over 90% of wealth in the U.S. is held in assets other than cash; think real estate, retirement assets, appreciated assets, other tangible property. As wealth stewards expanding leadership’s focus to solicit noncash assets, we will create a deeper connection to more community members and secure the funds needed to realize our missions.

Giving USA’s Leaving a Legacy report [] confirmed that over 40% of donors first learned from their charity that making a gift could benefit them financially. This role is a significant responsibility and opportunity for charities. Ultimately, wealth stewards and their leadership must focus on what their charities can do FOR their donors, not just want they want FROM their donors.

Here's How to Begin

  1. Engage organizational leadership by sharing the benefits of deepening gift planning culture for the organization, your mission, and your donors
  2. Assess your wealth stewardship program for areas of growth and deeper donor engagement
  3. Review and qualify current and prospective donors who have been giving consistently for many years (5-10+) at relatively modest levels for deferred gift conversations
  4. Create opportunities for donors to build financial health through educational sessions hosted by local financial professionals

I am eager to find accomplices in this work, to “get caught trying...” Who’s with me?!

M. Angel Flores (she/her,) is thrilled to serve as Co-Vice Chair of AFP-NYC’s Communications Committee. She is a Senior Vice President with CCS Fundraising, currently leading the firm’s Gift Planning Practice Group, an international team focused on identifying new ways to diversify and increase revenue for CCS’s nonprofit partners. Angel is a highly motivated, results-oriented, and compassionate executive with nearly two decades of experience working with and within organizations in the health, education, cultural, and human services sectors. She has advised organizations and planned and managed campaigns ranging from $20 million to $2.8 billion with extensive expertise managing strategic operations, planning and directing large-scale campaigns, refining major gift programs, and fostering gift planning culture. Angel currently resides on the historic lands of the Munsee Lenape, Schaghticoke, and Wappinger Peoples with her family. She draws on her dance, yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic training to maintain her flexibility and strength in mind, body, and spirit. You can connect with Angel via email [] or on LinkedIn [].

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