Helping Americans better understand the impact of philanthropy

A message from Vikki N. Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations:

According to recent studies by the Philanthropic Awareness Initiative, only 1 in 10 engaged Americans can give an example of a foundation’s impact on an issue they care about. Yet 8 in 10 engaged Americans think it would be a loss for their community if foundations no longer existed.

This past year presented philanthropic leaders with the grave reality of how delicately the charitable sector hangs in the balance of broader national issues. For nearly 100 years our government has provided an incentive for American generosity, but as our country’s leaders grapple with finding fiscally responsible solutions, their decisions may result in limits on philanthropic giving. If we aspire to foster a more philanthropic society, more Americans must understand our sector’s role and the impact of our work in communities around the globe.

Americans recognize the importance of philanthropy but they cannot readily identify it. It’s time for philanthropy to take a more proactive role in promoting our collective impact. We should come together on behalf of the broader causes we champion to build more awareness among Americans about the impact and opportunity our daily work fuels in communities across the globe. We must replace organizational and transactional communications with a collaborative strategy about our impact and encourage each other to apply our individual strengths and expertise collectively in the search for solutions to social problems.

If we can increase the visibility of our respective issues and build awareness of how we collectively advance them, more Americans will understand the role we play and will reaffirm the strong tradition and future importance of the charitable sector. We will have a clear sense that we are putting issue priorities ahead of organizational ones and are creating a better world.

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