Philanthropy Journal of North Carolina – Time for change

By Todd Cohen

Charity is poised for change.

With war and terrorism looming, social and environmental crisis deepening, and government and business leadership shrinking, charity can help map a course out of turmoil and crisis at home and abroad.

Yet in the face of civic, economic and technological change, charity itself is in flux.

To do its job, charity must figure out what it wants to be.

New forms of charity are taking shape, plugging gaps in traditional giving and service-delivery and blurring lines between charitable, commercial and governmental work.

And new support systems for charities and donors have emerged, including a vast network of groups to boost charities’ internal workings, and a booming industry to provide financial and professional services to donors.

Consider North Carolina.

Foundations, donor-advised funds and corporate givers in the state have formed a network to learn from one another and work together, while the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has invested $500,000 to find and tap new veins of charitable giving, volunteering and expertise in the state.

These efforts reflect a larger effort throughout the U.S. to remake charity to better cope with the complex job it is expected to do.

But while the range of charitable options is expanding, the time for action is fleeting, and charities and donors need to move quickly to redefine their roles.

Charities and donors must be smart and nimble, able to gauge and weigh their options for doing business.

Increasingly, charity will mix old and new, fueled by a marketplace that values flexibility, openness, teamwork and new ideas.

Charities and donors must be willing to take stock of themselves, fixing weaknesses and building on strengths, and to team with one another and with government and business, pooling resources and sharing risks.

Before change swamps it, charity must change, gearing itself to unleash and pull together diverse resources and groups needed to tackle crisis in a changing world.

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