When looked at from a distance, philanthropy and advocacy are two sides of the same coin. Both have a primary focus on helping other people and pushing for social change, though the two types of people go about that change in a different way than the other. While advocates are more likely to be out on the street physically protesting for change, philanthropists are more likely to donate time, money, or resources to organizations of their choice to push for the same change. The goals of both groups intersect in such a way that one cannot accomplish their goals without the other, and in this day and age, the line between philanthropists and advocates has blurred considerably.
Why has this happened?
In a way, it’s always been like this. With the ever-increasing pattern of social injustices getting caught up in politics and becoming topics of debate rather than a means for change, it’s taken the development of programs specifically designed in the name of reformation to implement any sort of change. Philanthropists engage with the larger public and politicians to assert changes in public-interest values and policy reforms by building grants, fundraisers, and businesses in a way to reflect these new values. Even if they don’t refer to themselves as such, all of this is a form of advocacy and, therefore, makes philanthropists advocates.
To get even close to accomplishing their goals, philanthropists need to answer the same questions that advocates do: how can change be made? What obstacles stand in the way of this change? Who needs to join in this battle to overcome the obstacles and ensure a better status quo?
The answer to all of these questions lies in the tactics that advocates use to address these questions. Research, sets of ideas, polling, lobbying, strategy planning, and media diversity are only a few of these tactics. Since philanthropists and advocates frequently cross paths while answering the above questions, working with one another only strengthens the effectiveness of said tactics; as the saying goes, two brains are better than one.
Collaboration between donors and advocates ultimately leads to dynamic partnerships between individuals and organizations alike, which in turn provides more flexibility to each group since what advocates lack, philanthropists often have, and vice versa. Should you truly want to see a change in the world, keep your mind open to cooperation with other groups—it’s likely you overlap more than you could possibly know.