The Rise of the Knowledge Philanthropist

By Colleen Kelly & Lynda Gerty
From The Abundant Not-for-Profit, Vantage Point, 2013, pp. 28-29
Peter Drucker is one of the most well-known management authorities of our time. In the many books he wrote, Drucker outlined the rise of the knowledge
worker in this millennium. This phenomenon follows the farm worker to the factory worker to the knowledge worker. Certainly, there were roles for volunteers
that arose from agriculture and from assembly lines. Once we recognize the rise of the knowledge worker, we are naturally led to the concept of the knowledge volunteer. The term one of Vantage Point’s strategic thinkers, Omar Ladak, coined to describe this concept is knowledge philanthropist. This term refers to the person who volunteers primarily with their head, by contributing what they know.
 
For not-for-profit organizations to be responsive to changing times, leaders will have to understand and engage this wave of knowledge philanthropists who want to be involved in the community. Leaders can deliberately build organizational cultures that strategically integrate this new kind of volunteer, knowledge philanthropist, into their activities.
 
The majority of not-for-profit organizations will never have all the money they desire. And to operate within this space of assumed scarcity, rather than abundance, means they are continually planning with limitations. When leaders stop planning based only on money – and how much they do not have – the situation changes dramatically. This is the competitive advantage of the not-for-profit sector: the ability to hire talented people and pay them with meaning. Almost an infinite number of highly talented people are available to do work if organizations can only realize how to engage them well.
 
To do so, organizations require the right infrastructure. They require a strong foundation, beginning with good policies, practices and processes. We’ll delve into that foundation in more detail in Part Two. It’s also important that not-for-profit leaders understand what motivates each individual in their organization and pay them in kind. Of course, salaried employees, too, require more than money to be satisfied. Strong, abundant not-for-profits pay both salaried employees and volunteers with what motivates them.
 
In a recent article in the Nonprofit Quarterly entitled, “It’s a New (Old) Day for Volunteerism: Crowd Sourcing Social Change”, the author Peter O’Donnell asks the question, “Do today’s nonprofits really want volunteers/an engaged community?” He goes on to comment that most not-for-profits have anemic volunteer strategies. O’Donnell suggests organizations give lip service to the idea of volunteer involvement, and there is no substance to their actions. There is very little focus on a volunteer strategy.
 
He is so correct. Leaders of abundant not-for-profits understand it is vital to build a robust strategy that focuses first on people, and to build a culture that welcomes and engages all the available talent. If organizations do not have that focus they will be hard-pressed to engage knowledge philanthropists successfully.
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