Your Life. Your Legacy. Conversations with Philanthropic Leaders
Today we begin an ongoing series of conversations with leaders in philanthropy. Our first discussion is with Yolanda J. Gorman, PhD. Active in the philanthropic space for over 30 years, Yolanda currently serves on the Board of Regents for the University of California. She is also President of Philips Graduate University and is active in various other non-profits and foundations as a board member and an advocate. Yolanda began her non-profit career as a grant writer.
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How to create a culture of giving? Of enthusiasm? Of innovation and creativity? Yolanda Gorman believes that these issues will be at the forefront of philanthropy as we move through the early parts of the 21st century. Non-profit institutions have successfully articulated and funded many of their projects. However, Yolanda feels that there remains a mismatch between funders and donors—an element of chasing dollars. Specifically, Yolanda feels, “The model isn’t changing dramatically.” Several non-profits have not updated their business models to include more inventive means to search for resources.
“The culture hasn’t changed. Funding models are changing rapidly and non-profits aren’t moving quickly enough. However, non-profit organizations are being forced to change; there is a disruption occurring.”
What is this disruption? New investors. Yes, donors are investors. And, they want something different. Millennials and others “want a say.” This is not atypical. Donors often “want a say.” However, now they “want to be involved, want to have a personal relationship, want to have a personal impact.” The question Yolanda raises is, “How do we create this connection between donors and organizations so that everyone understands?”—understands the needs, the goals, and the opportunities.
As with many transitions, business models are entrenched and difficult to change. Yolanda asks, “How do we change the business model?” She’s not sure. However, she does believe that there is plenty of noise in the environment. Examples she discussed include social media, crowdfunding, and “Understanding different ways to attract resources and donors."
"How do we take advantage of innovation?” Is it that non-profits don’t see the model changing or they don’t know how to address it?
Thinking about philanthropy from a strategic perspective is part of Yolanda’s DNA. Although Yolanda’s beginnings in philanthropy were a fluke—a grant writing job while a college student—she was able to take what she learned in business school and help non-profits better articulate their visions, share their missions, be effective, and communicate their successes.
And, years later, she’s still in the game. She’s able “to contribute to some of the most important work on the planet.” Additionally, she has such “high respect and regard for people who work on the ground helping other people.”
And, now, there are vast opportunities for investors to share their resources: locally, nationally and globally. Access to and accumulation of wealth is changing. Yolanda anticipates “more entrepreneurism, more innovation, more creativity from non-profits.” She feels non-profit organizations will have to change, though it will not be easy or quickly.
Yolanda feels the big question remains the same: “How do we bring resources to bear on social issues?” She believes the processes used to fund and connect these resources will adapt to our new world.
“As long as we live on this planet, there are going to be opportunities to share our skills and resources to affect humanity.”