It is the beautiful and complex tension right at the heart of our sector: Foundations are built to last but philanthropy is changing all the time. From mankind beginning to spend agricultural surpluses to the latest wave of crypto currency foundations, foundations have reflected their time, place, and culture.
Take my home city of Berlin: If you walked the streets five generations ago, you would have seen the work of foundations in the housing built for the exploding population, or the zoos and museums, all crowdfunded from the rich. One generation later, Germany had over 100,000 foundations for every conceivable purpose. The post-war generation started from near scratch, creating foundations bearing the familiar names of the Wirtschaftswunder companies. The most recent generation has built community foundations across the country, contributing to a boom of foundations that has doubled their number since the turn of the century.

What is next?

What waits behind the bend in the road? Is it Mark Zuckerberg or for profit philanthropy, is it going to be all crowd and digital, or will the future of foundations be female, or Asian? 
Next Philanthropy is a new initiative that will attempt to look ahead. Here are a few first hypotheses based on early data and discussions. They do not provide defined limits of the inquiry but point to areas of exploration.

The next philanthropy is going to be more

  1. global – there is a global ideas space for all but a few social challenges, all countries share the same development goals, and philanthropy will seek solutions across borders.
  2. transparent – winning the trust of co-creators and beneficiaries will be ever more important for scaling change.
  3. participatory – creating bottom-up rather than top-down mechanisms for decision making and resource allocation will be a prerequisite in any dynamic social environment.  
  4. collaborative – as philanthropists start their giving at an ever earlier age, they seek to be involved and learn rather than leave a legacy in their name.
  5. digital – with transaction costs near zero, philanthropy will use the full range of digital tools in order to focus resources on human connections.
  6. entrepreneurial – tapping into market forces, and using a broad range of legal forms, philanthropy will seek to play incubator roles for social entrepreneurs and businesses.
  7. investing – from grants to equity, debt, and hybrid finance, philanthropy will find ever smarter ways to leverage finance to create sustainable, and growing solutions.

Next Philanthropy initiative

This summer, the Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen (Association of German Foundations) has initiated Next Philanthropy as a global collaboration to share knowledge, compare insights, and fuel a discussion. Today, it launches the first Next Philanthropy knowledge products, among them a weekly board briefing, push newsletter, dedicated sections in its magazine and newsletter, and a series of breakfast meetings. 
The initial partners of this open effort include Alliance magazineAfrican Venture Philanthropy Alliance (AVPA), Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE), European Venture Philanthropy Alliance (EVPA), and Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS). They are going to launch their own products and events later this year.

We will use the hashtag #nextphilanthropy to help anyone interested find relevant content online.


Felix Oldenburg worked from 2016 - 2020 as secretary General at the Association of German Foundations. He is chair of the European donors and foundations network DAFNE.

Further information

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