The New Generation of Philanthropy: Enlightened Self-Interest

When 3p covered BBMG earlier this year, the interactive marketing agency had just released their 2009 Conscious Consumer Report, an exploration of consumer attitudes, behaviors, and priorities at a time of perceived great social reset. This morning, in what seems to be a natural extension, BBMG released a white paper on the evolution of philanthropy, building off of much of the logic of their Conscious Consumer Report.

In it, the paper’s author writes, “The new economy has created a reset moment that’s changing how we live and work. And it has profound consequences for philanthropy.”

Trust in our institutions has changed. Entrepreneurship is rising, and from that, a new class of social entrepreneurs, those who break classical boundaries and blur the lines between the traditional roles of for- and non-profits, combining what BBMG calls, “social purpose with financial promise.”

Social entrepreneurs are successful in this kind of climate because, presumably, consumers want more than just products that are high quality or affordable or even good for you. They also want to engage with a brand in a way that makes them feel a part of a community, what BBMG terms a brand’s “tribal” benefit.

And as social media and other technological advancements have facilitated the transfer of brand ownership to consumers, the influential spheres of tribes increase.

What does all this mean? It means that as a sector such as philanthropy responds to its stakeholders, the criteria for nonprofit branding is changing.

“Organizations will no longer be defined by pure altruism but by enlightened self-interest. They’ll no longer be measured by the problems they address but by the solutions they deliver. And they will no longer be shaped by the power of a few but by the voices of many.”

Philanthropy these days is rooted in the notions of inclusion and collaboration. It is about embracing strategies across industry and sector lines while broadening engagement and participation. Most importantly, however, if recent phenomena like Twitter can teach us something, an organization’s most vocal, loyal, or passionate supporters can come from the most unlikeliest of places.

It is more than just getting Twitter account and starting to seek followers though. It’s about transparency. And as more and more consumers and stakeholders become accustomed to expect transparency in organizations, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations have the opportunity to reinvent themselves in their every action and interaction. It starts by listening to and engaging the new consumer, by becoming relevant to them. They are, after all,” as BBMG writes in its executive summary, “your next donor.”

Ashwin is an Associate Editor of Triple Pundit. He recently returned to the Bay Area after living in Argentina, where he wholeheartedly missed the Pacific Ocean. He is a freelance editor and media and marketing consultant.After a brief stint working in the wine world, when not staring blankly at a computer screen, you'll find him working on Anand Confections or at 826 Valencia, where he has been a long-time volunteer.

Leave a Reply