Evolving Philanthropy in 2022

By: Susan Hirsch, Founder & CEO

As we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic and the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons for philanthropy from this uncertain and painful time. The word I keep coming back to is evolve.

Status quo thinking will not solve the many, often intersecting, challenges that have been laid bare by this crisis. In fact, status quo thinking has never been bold enough to address systemic racism, income inequality, access to healthcare, public education, food security, political violence, and much more.

How must we evolve philanthropy to heal these deep-rooted issues and create a better future?

To answer that question, I want to share ten core Hirsch beliefs about how philanthropy can evolve as we forge ahead in 2022:

1) Invest in relationships. The pandemic has reminded us how important it is to show up, listen, and support each other with authenticity. Social changemaking is demanding and everyone has a collaborative role in realizing a better world.

2) Protect democracy. Philanthropy can advance the structural reform needed to protect our democracy. Bay Area philanthropists play a vital role in supporting policy, advocacy, candidates, and the public sector.

3) Racial justice is central to everything that we do. We are all accountable to begin or continue a racial justice journey that leads to behavior change and action to create a more equitable future.

4) Solutions must be systemic. To deal with the pressing problems of our time, let’s provide short-term relief while focusing long-term and holistically on root causes.

5) Take risks. Don’t worry about getting it wrong, worry about not acting boldly enough! We partner with communities and fund innovative, high-risk but high-reward approaches while also continuing proven and effective work.

6) Fund community-led ideas. Our community partners motivate and inspire us daily with their expertise and creativity to fulfill challenging missions. It is our responsibility to show up with a seat at the table to support communities, not by imposing answers from the head of the table.

7) Build on generosity. From increased investments to commitments that have gone beyond financial support during COVID-19, the generosity of our philanthropic community gives us optimism.

8) Prevent and respond to crises. While some may take a ‘wait and see’ approach, it is critical to think and act on what’s necessary before, during, and after a crisis.

9) Trust is integral for impact. Many community leaders have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic but have remained flexible and strong changemakers. Fund their incredible organizations with unrestricted, multi-year grants and implement trust-based practices.

10) Direct engagement moves curiosity to action. Philanthropy is most effective when philanthropists and communities directly engage, listen, and work in true partnership.

I invite you to keep sparking conversations about what we can learn from this challenging time to evolve philanthropy into a more just and powerful force for good.

As I close, I’m proud to highlight a few numbers that tell an encouraging story. In 2021, our firm, with the passionate philanthropists we work with, directed over $112M to 765 community organizations that are brilliantly driving sustainable impact.

Since Hirsch Philanthropy Partners was founded 22 years ago, we’ve directed $1.5B to over 2,400 exceptional community organizations. 

Behind every dollar is a story of the power of authentic collaboration between communities and philanthropists. As I look to the year ahead, this is what inspires and renews my confidence in a brighter world.