Let’s be honest: Many of us can’t wait for 2020 to end. The loss of lives and livelihoods has been traumatic, the damage done to our civil society has been immense, and the ongoing reckoning with racial injustice has been wrenching (though utterly necessary).
Still, as I reflected on the year with my Arabella Advisors colleagues, we couldn’t help thinking that philanthropy may have reached a watershed moment in 2020. In the face of unprecedented, intersecting challenges, the philanthropic community contributed in multiple ways.
Funders moved more money more quickly than ever before. They used models and approaches that were both faster and more equitable than the ones they had previously used. They gave through collaborative funds, coordinated with community-based groups, used loans and innovative investment vehicles, and in some cases even engaged in direct giving to individuals. Many also committed to system-level change and funded bold advocacy efforts.
We know this because we had the privilege of seeing many of their efforts up close. Working with and on behalf of our clients, the team at Arabella Advisors helped to deploy close to a billion dollars for philanthropic efforts in 2020, most of it destined to help the communities and groups our clients care about respond to the challenges mentioned above. To say I have a new appreciation for those clients—and for my teammates at Arabella who supported them—would be a massive understatement. When I think about the impact we helped our clients achieve, and the work we did to get there, I feel a deep sense of pride that helps to assuage the grief of 2020. I also feel something that was too often hard to find this year: hope.
In 2020, philanthropy proved that it can do more, do it faster, and do it more equitably and inclusively than ever before. There is much work left to do, both on our field and alongside the communities and people who are leading efforts for change. But we will meet the future now with new tools and knowledge and with the potential to build upon the lessons philanthropy began to take to heart this year.
With that potential in mind, the Arabella team will be launching a series of virtual convenings, conversations, and publications in the new year, focused on the future of the social sector and philanthropy’s role in it. We will bring together community leaders, experts, and change makers to explore:
- What comes next for philanthropy in the wake of 2020’s society-wide displacements
- The potential—and need—to renew and reinvigorate the social contract
- What should (and shouldn’t) be philanthropy’s roles in relation to government and the private sector
- How philanthropy can go well beyond traditional grant making to increase equity and help build an economy for all
In 2020, philanthropy has shown that it can step up. In 2021, it will need to climb to new heights. We know many of you will be as anxious as we are to see it do just that. We look forward to working with you to harness new ideas, respond to new opportunities, and build even greater impact on the way to a brighter and more equitable future.
We are grateful for your ongoing partnership, this year as never before, and we wish you and those you love happiness, health, and hope for 2021 and far beyond.