Developing community in philanthropy

Mark PetersenApp, Community, Generosity

Leadership guru Margaret J. Wheatley is an academic and researcher on organizational development who made an impact on me during my DLd studies. Her book, Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time, introduces a framework for the development of authentic communities of praxis in which members grow in confidence and impact as they journey together. She encourages leaders to (1) Name, (2) Connect, (3) Nourish, and (4) Illuminate the communities in which they participate (pp. 174-175). This community to which they belong “is a community of practice, not of place, because it is formed among people who act from the same values and visions, and who are doing similar work.” (p. 174)

Communities of practice are more than mere networks. Their members “make a commitment to be available to each other, to offer support and share learning, and to consciously develop new knowledge. They are there not only for their own needs, but for the needs of others.” (p. 177)

We’re celebrating sixteen months since the launch of our Stronger Philanthropy Community. I created this platform with a fuzzy, gut-level intuition for what it could become, but in reality, it was a giant experiment, a veritable leap of faith. Who knew if it would work, or if it could offer a meaningful contribution to participants? I’m pleased to report that it’s brought me much joy, and tangible benefits to its membership. Today, we have 175 members, and my analytics demonstrate incremental but positive growth and engagement by members month-over-month since inception.

As is true of any community, the more you contribute, the more you get out of it – our theme of being transformed by generosity is true in this community also. We do have members who stay in the shadows, observing from a distance. But there are others who participate more robustly who report to me that they can’t imagine charitable life without this group, and that it has brought significant benefit to their charity and philanthropy leadership.  Livestream interviews with charity leaders and philanthropists are popular as is the opportunity to engage directly with Stronger Philanthropy clients through direct messaging and dedicated private groups.

The pandemic shattered communities around the world, divisions and broken relationships have become hallmarks of our society. If you’re in charity or philanthropic leadership, and you feel isolated and scattered by today’s stresses and strains, I invite you to join our community to reignite your purpose.