Smashing Silos in Philanthropy: Multi-Issue Advocacy and Organizing for Real Results

The National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy’s latest report, Smashing Silos in Philanthropy: Multi-Issue Advocacy and Organizing for Real Results, takes an in-depth look at how “strategic” philanthropy is undermining the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors’ abilities to find sustainable solutions to the tough, complex and contentious issues of our times. As foundations seek to improve effectiveness and evaluation, the corresponding preference for organizations working on single issues is shrinking the amount of available funds from an already miniscule pot of foundation grant dollars for efforts that bring diverse communities together, engage in grassroots policy advocacy, cultivate leaders and grow movements.

 “Although single-issue, ‘strategic’ philanthropy promises greater efficiency and accountability in the near term, it also threatens to undermine broader goals such as diversity, coalition-building and creating social capital. NCRP makes a compelling case for how grantmakers risk losing the forest by focusing on just one tree,” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club.

The report suggests seven practical tips for foundations that want to fund multi-issue advocacy and organizing. These include providing flexible multi-year grants, leading by example and treating grantees as real partners.

The report also identifies the top challenges to funding outside our silos and suggests ways to overcome these challenges.

“As philanthropy continues to grapple with ways to become more effective and strategic, Smashing Silos in Philanthropy reminds us of a time-tested strategy that grantmakers cannot lose sight of: a holistic and systemic approach that unites diverse communities and fosters shared purpose and mutual accountability,” said Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.