Philanthropy has changed in marked ways over the last 25 years. We have seen new players, new giving vehicles and new approaches. New players came on the scene from their economic success in the tech industry, financial institutions and other growth industries. Many of them are younger, more diverse and committed to philanthropy. Many took advantage of new structures for giving, such as donor advised funds and philanthropic LLCs leading to a donor-centered philanthropy. These donors adopted new strategies that, at their core, aspire for greater impact, not merely doing good.
These forces have created a crescendo that is reflected in the way philanthropy is practiced today. Early in this period, strategic philanthropy and nonprofit capacity building – elements central to the venture philanthropy movement – were the focus. In the intervening years, a number of efforts have emerged: philanthropic collaboration, public policy engagement, public philanthropic partnerships, impact investing, diversity and inclusion, and new giving models that are more flexible and nimbler. Some of these approaches have taken hold as evidenced by the emergence of related infrastructure organizations and affinity groups. In other instances, the developments are at an earlier stage, yet are gaining traction. And, there are others where it is still too early to tell. Despite these different stages, it is clear that this generation of philanthropy is marked by a focus on impact.
We have seen these changes unfold here in Los Angeles. In this paper, to provide context, we begin by reflecting on the changing foundation landscape and the prospects for even more changes in the future. Then, we work through the eight strategies that have defined this generation, exploring how they have shaped the way L.A. foundations approach their work. For each strategy, we share some notable examples that bring each to life, providing a vivid portrait of the changes that are reshaping philanthropy in the region. We conclude with reflections on how this generation of impact has found expression in L.A. philanthropy and offer some thoughts on what the future may hold.