The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in Austin, Texas, has announced that its founders are committing an additional $1 billion to the foundation's endowment to support the next generation of social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders.
Announced in conjunction with the release of a report about the role of foundations in a changing world, the funds will be used to support social enterprises and nonprofit organizations that are shaping the future of philanthropy. Commissioned by the foundation and based on surveys of and interviews with social entrepreneurs, NGO experts, government officials, and others in the field, the report, A Philanthropist's Guide to the Future (HTML or 32 pages, PDF), examines the ways in which traditional, prescriptive philanthropic approaches are being replaced by solutions driven by non-traditional social impact leaders.
Based on the foundation's eighteen years of work to improve the lives of children and families living in urban poverty, the report argues that philanthropy is changing in five distinct ways — a shift in focus, from capital to competence; in motivation, from passion to pragmatism; in approach, from intervention to innovation; in relationships among social impact leaders, from coordination to full-on collaboration; and in the scope of work, from quick fixes to long-term involvement.
According to the report, skills, expertise, and ingenuity — rather than direct funding — are the new currency of progress, while philanthropists, to be effective, require persistence and a willingness to invest in "riskier" projects. The study also found that when asked who is likely to contribute the most innovative ideas and solutions to social and environmental problems, 62 percent of survey respondents said social entrepreneurs, followed by the people most affected by the problem (40 percent) and local NGOs (32 percent). A large majority of survey respondents (76 percent) also said that learning from the failures of others was useful in advancing their own work — more than the 71 percent who said the same of others' successes — and that only half felt that failures were regularly shared, compared with 86 percent who said success factors were shared. In addition, the report found that 80 percent of donors and grantees highlighted building partnerships among organizations with a common vision as critical to effective social impact work, with 79 percent seeing a need for increased collaboration between nonprofits and businesses, 75 percent between governments and nonprofits, and 64 percent between business and government.
"Michael and I believe that the only way we can make progress on the hard problems we are tackling is to collaborate with the best partners we can find," said Susan Dell, co-founder and board chair of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. "A new generation of social impact leaders is proving that the ability to affect social change is no longer tied to financial resources alone. Their contributions of time, talent, and skill are driving innovation and creating new solutions."