Subscribe to our blog

Subscribe to Email Updates

Featured Post

Recent Posts

Rhodri Davies thinks about the value of philanthropy


In this series of Group Thinkers podcast episodes, our focus is on leadership. Throughout each episode, we’ll chat with leaders in the nonprofit and commercial space to learn more about their careers and the unique journeys that led them to where they are today. 

On this episode, we sit down with Rhodri Davies, founder and director of Why Philanthropy Matters, to discuss: 

  • His academic endeavors and how they led to working in philanthropy (7:10) 
  • People who inspired and mentored him throughout his career (14:34)
  • Making philanthropy approachable with Why Philanthropy Matters (18:08)
  • How nonprofits can ensure better transparency with donors (23:44)
  • The lasting impact of his career with Why Philanthropy Matters (31:55)


Meet our guest 

Rhodri Davies headshotRhodri Davies

Founder and director of Why Philanthropy Matters

Without transparency, there's not really any accountability. And without accountability, there's no legitimacy, and then the whole thing kind of falls apart."


Podcast transcript 

Justin: Welcome to Group Thinkers, the podcast from RKD Group. I am your host, Justin McCord. With me as always is Ronnie Richard. And I don't know why I'm talking so slow.

Ronnie: Like, really pacing out, setting up the slow dialogue.

Justin: Yeah. Setting up. You know, honestly, Ronnie, I think that we just finished wrapping up this interview with Rhodri Davies of the UK based think tank Why Philanthropy Matters, and I think that it's the importance of the conversation that's washing over me is why my cadence is a little slow. I am trudging through thoughts on the conversation. So, why don't you give us a little bit of Rhodri's background, and I'll gather myself.

Ronnie: I'll let you sit in thought while I go over this. Yeah. So, Rhodri, as you just mentioned, he's a founder and director of the think tank Why Philanthropy Matters. He also hosts a podcast called “Philanthropisms.” But he's got such a such an incredible background in research and philosophy. He's a Pears Research Fellow at the Center for Philanthropy at the University of Kent. He's authored two books, including his latest, “What is Philanthropy for?” So like you're saying, he's deep in thought, thinking about the industry, and philanthropy and all these different aspects of it, which we kinda touch on some of it in the episode. And you know, it’s not a surprise that he started out in college. He graduated from Oxford with a degree in mathematics and philosophy.

Justin: Yeah. I mean, the mathematics part, I don’t know. But the philosophy part, right? And I guess, yeah, here's what is occurring to me as I'm reflecting on this conversation. You know when we started this podcast, and even the name of it, Group Thinkers ... We have a lot of people reach out to us from time to time, and they want us to unpack, like, hey, group think, that's a bad thing. Like, why would you―and no, this is Group Thinkers. This is a space where we have conversations with people who are doing things differently, thinking about things differently. And we may have just spent time today with the preeminent thought leader in the UK. The preeminent thought leader on philanthropy in the UK. And I think that that's what is special to me about this episode and this conversation. And certainly, the idea that Rhodri will get into about why thinking about this stuff matters, and why it matters not just for the practitioners, but why it matters to both the elite philanthropists and to the everyday philanthropists. And so, yeah, so I'm excited for you all to be able to take in this episode, to listen to our conversation, and hopeful that it challenges you to sit for a second and think about the role that charity, the role that nonprofits, the role that philanthropy plays in your world, right? So, I'm gonna get to the interview so that I can sit in thought a little longer. And so with that, here is Rhodri Davies of Why Philanthropy Matters on Group Thinkers.

Justin: So, Ronnie, you hear me talk a lot about the public square. Like, you probably more than anyone hear me talk about, you know, the Agora, the public square, the space where, you know, we're having meaningful conversations. And, you know, we've been really blessed recently because we're having conversations with people who aren't, like, right next to us on the square. And today, it's someone who is on the opposite side of the square pond, like, from us. And so, that's super fun and super exciting. So, Rhodri, welcome to the show.

Rhodri: Thanks for having me. Yeah, great to be here.

Justin: So, Rhodri, there are a handful of things that we want to get into, man, in terms of your work in the UK and abroad, but where I wanna start is by way of background. You're the founder and director of the think tank Why Philanthropy Matters. You've got a brand-new book, which is on my kindle, “What is Philanthropy For?” and right now you're doing a lot of sessions, a lot of speaking, on the kind of, the current state and the reality of the value of philanthropy. And so, I would love for you to, as we start a conversation, give us a 30-second clip on the value of philanthropy. I'm asking you to sum up, like, your―I read your, like, it was like a 12-page speech.

Rhodri: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Justin: So, thirty seconds, why does why does philanthropy matter?

Rhodri: Why does philosophy matter? Well, I guess the bit of, that is, it matters whether you think it's a good thing or not and because it kind of has an impact on all of our lives. And you might think that it's a kind of terrifying menace to democracy, allowing very wealthy people with large amounts of money to do whatever they want and sort of shape public policy and debate, or you might go the other way and say, actually, it's about everybody kind of having the basic human desire to connect with other people and help them and help other people who are less fortunate than themselves. And actually, it's kind of a very healthy thing in any society and democracy. And obviously, that gets you into the whole, but what are we even talking about? What do we mean by philanthropy? How are we defining this thing? And that's a whole other kinda messy thing to talk about, you know? I mean, that's kind of the value of it to me is that if you understand it in the right way, it's not perfect by any means, but if you get the best possible version of it, it's something that any healthy society can't really do without. And so . . .

Justin: You did it in thirty seconds. I don't know.

Ronnie: I was gonna say, I think that that clocked in under thirty. That was impressive.

Rhodri: Wow.

Justin: Okay. Alright. So, I'm buying it. I'm buying every bit of it and appreciate, truly appreciate, your willingness, interest and effort behind the discourse, because the discourse matters. So now I wanna rewind. You received a degree in mathematics and philosophy from Oxford in 2004. And then you went into research, and you published two major reports on philanthropy. Connect for me the dots on studying mathematics and philosophy and then what drew you into the research field and what drew you, more specifically, to philanthropy as a part of that research.

Rhodri: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. There's kind of a missing bit in that, which is the maths and philosophy undergrad that I did, I really liked, and I did pretty well in it. And then I wanted to go on and kinda carry that on post grad and ended up sort of starting out down the route to doing a DPhil, a PhD. But I kinda had a moment where I was enjoying the subject matter, but I thought, is this really what I wanna do? Because it's a, you know, it's a niche within a niche, and you kind of sit in a room with a small group of about 20 people. And then you realize they're the same 20 people that you're gonna be talking to for the rest of your career, probably. And I just kinda thought, do you know what? I can't do this. So, I kind of decided I needed to get out of that route, and it wasn't the right way to go. I had a year or two of, you know, as everybody does at that point, kinda casting around trying to figure out what I was gonna do. And then I hit upon the idea of maybe something like a think tank, you know? I'd heard of these things, and I thought, oh, that sounds good, you know? It's kind of a bit like academia, but it's in the real world. And it so happened that there was a think tank at the time that was recruiting for research for a project on philanthropy that involved going out and interviewing lots of, kind of, wealthy finance people in London and talking to them about what got them into philanthropy and how they do it. And I’d been doing a bit of work in the meantime, just, kind of, with a corporate headhunter, which was absolutely not what I wanted to be doing, and I was really bad at it. But it meant I’d got a foot in the door because I was, kind of, working in and around finance. And so, it kinda felt like I knew what I might be talking about. And to be honest, if you'd said to me at that point, are you interested in philanthropy? I would have said I barely even know what it is. And I probably thought it was just one project, and I’d go on and work on something else. And I just got kind of got hooked. I find it fascinating. It was such an interesting mixture of, kind of, you know, what drives individuals, and the psychology and the sort of cultural background, but then also you kinda zoom out, and actually it's about politics and economics. So, it kind of . . . you can look at all of these different things through this one lens. And I’ve been in it ever since and, kind of, you know, getting further and further into it. And over time, I’ve sort of developed an interest, particularly in the history of it, and I’ve ended up writing a couple of books that kinda focus on that side of things. So, yeah, it’s a happy accident, really, the whole why am I in philanthropy, but I’m very pleased that it did happen.

Justin: Was philanthropy, in some form or fashion, was that a part of your upbringing in some way? Or was it something foreign? Like, what was the first point of exposure into that space?

Rhodri: Yeah. It’s a really good question. And, I mean, I was in an event early this year, in the US, actually, in Seattle. And they . . . we had a kind of dinner event, and part of that was getting people to, kind of, dig into their own personal stories. And it was the first time I'd really thought about it that much. I don't think I would have ever termed it as philanthropy because, I mean, that term in the UK is a bit different than it is in the US, it's sort of slightly less common currency. But I, certainly when I thought back to it, actually, you know, my parents were always doing bits of voluntary work and were involved in, kind of, as trustees for charitable organizations. And my sister, certainly, used to do an enormous amount of voluntary work. And probably at the time, I was slightly too cool for school, and I sort of sneered at her a little bit, and she was the one out there doing that rather than me. And then kinda, yeah, when I look back though, all that stuff probably was formative, because I was always aware of the value of doing things for, you know, for other people, not for money. And you know, we'd always kinda given to charity in a very, sort of, small scale where we didn't have huge amounts of money, so it wasn't really an option. But it, you know, we kinda had that habit of, you know, getting involved in causes and doing things to help other people.

Ronnie: I'm curious, as time has gone on from when you first started studying philanthropy shortly after Oxford, have your views changed on it? Have you, kind of, observed things that have stood out that have shifted how you perceive it, you know?

Rhodri: Yeah. Absolutely. I guess, like a lot of people, the arc I’ve, sort of, gone on in a way is you―maybe not everybody has this, but I kind of got into, and I was like, well, this is, this is great. People who have lots of money, you know, particularly if we're talking about, sort of, wealthy philanthropy, elite philanthropy, have decided to do something to help other people, that’s brilliant. There's no possible way that you could question that being a good thing. And I guess, the more I've dug into it, the more I've sort of realized that, actually, you know, there is a kind of a critical lens you can apply to this stuff, and there are lots of critiques and criticisms of philanthropy. And actually, I think I, sort of, got into this or thinking about it and reading about it, you know, a decade or more ago. And at the time, I remember a lot of the people I talked to in the philanthropy sector were kind of, you know, looked at me a bit sideways. I'm like, well, it's interesting, but it's kinda weird, and maybe we should just not talk about it at the moment. And in the last, the sort of 10 years following that, it’s become much more mainstream, I think, to kind of engage with some of that criticism, and there's been quite a few, you know, big books have come out that have, kind of, you know, made some of those arguments and have got lots of people reading them. And I think that's a good thing, in a way, in that I think there are, with almost all of those criticism, ballads, bits of them it's really important we take on board when we're working in philanthropy because it's the only way that we can improve it and make sure that we don't, sort of, have the unintended consequences that we don't want. I think there's a danger―and I kind of increasingly feel this―that actually what happens, though, is that you go from, oh, well, philanthropy is unquestioningly good; nobody can say anything bad about it, to, wait, there's criticisms, and then people go into the, oh, it's all awful, we need to abandon the whole thing. And actually, in all the work that I'm doing―and kinda, certainly, these days, I'm trying to, kind of, plow that slightly harder work furrow in the middle where it's all about, you know, nuance and, you know, gray areas rather than black and white―I think as a result, you know, I quite often test my own thoughts about philanthropy and whether I'm fundamentally positive about it or not. And I think I am because I'm lucky enough that I get to speak to a lot of people actually just getting on and doing stuff to make philanthropy better, and that's the thing that kinda keeps me really encouraged, is that, you know, you can see that there are things that are problematic about it or ways of doing it that aren't so good, but instead of just throwing up your hands in despair, you can think, well, actually, there are people who know that and are trying to make this stuff better. So, you know, that kinda gives me a lot of cause for optimism.

Justin: The interesting thing about the role that you have and the space that you have on the public square is that it really endears itself to you, by necessity, surrounding yourself with other thinkers. And, you know, it's kinda like in a different way you found your version of those 20 people in the room that you referenced earlier. I'm curious, in the last 15 years, who are the people that you continually look to to either challenge you or inspire you, that you somehow have taken leadership lessons from or that have mentored you?

Rhodri: Yeah. I mean, it's a good question. I guess, for a long while before I had set up Why Philosophy Matters, which is relatively recent, I worked for quite a long time―the job I had was working at the Charities Aid Foundation, which is a big nonprofit here in the UK. So, I was kinda working within a big institution. And there were, there were people there, certainly, who supported me. My boss at the time, Hannah Terry, who, kind of, has gone on to doing other things―she works for a wildlife charity now―but was always, kind of, hugely supportive and also gave me an enormous amount of latitude and just kinda trusted me to get on and do things on the basis of she thought, well, it seems like, you know, what broadly, what you're doing, so just try stuff. And having that ability to try stuff was hugely important. And actually, the chief executive at the time, John Lowe, was also very supportive, to the point where, you know, I . . . one time somebody said to me, oh, we should do, like, a short report about the history of philanthropy. And I said, oh, I'll do that. And then they came back a few months later and said, oh, how's that report getting on? And I said, you know, I think it's actually a book instead of stuff. In the, in the meantime, I’d already got together these, sort of, tens of thousands of words. And, you know, they let me run with it. And actually, in the end, you know, I was able to publish that as a book back in 2016. And similarly, when we had a podcast called “Giving Thor,” which is the, sort of, the earlier incarnation of what's now the podcast I do called “Philanthropisms,” and me and another colleague of mine at the time, Adam Pickering, who, you know, we always kind pushed each other, I think, in a really good way. But we just kinda got on and did that and recorded a bunch of episodes. And again, we were given, sort of, permission to well, we sort of asked forgiveness rather than permission, and that was okay. We just, sort of, did stuff. And I guess the other, the other people, or certainly people―you know, one person who's been hugely supportive of me for years now, and now, actually, I'm lucky enough to work with, is Beth Breeze, Dr. Beth Breeze, who runs the Center for Philanthropy at the University of Kent. And I've known her for ages, and she's always been very, very encouraging of my work. And then, when I left CAF, [Charities Aid Foundation] one of the things I was lucky enough to do was to, kind of, start working there part time, and now I'm gonna be, you know, coauthoring stuff with Beth, and that's absolutely great. And then, there's other people who I don't work with directly, but I think I kinda have them in my mind when I'm thinking about, who is my intended audience for this stuff? Or who is it that I would like to read this and say something, you know, nice about it or that it kinda hits home. And I don't know whether I should pick any of them individually cause it’s, sort of, unfair then because the others might feel left out. But they probably know who they are.

Justin: I love that. I love the idea that, in some way, the idea that you've got a connection with this audience, that you're working not for their approval, but it's because you appreciate who they are that you want their buy in, and that gives you an interesting outlook on your goals.

So, let’s talk a little bit about Why Philanthropy Matters. And so, this is, as you said, it’s a relatively new venture. And you mentioned that you’re trying to work in that hard ground that’s the gray space. So, tell us a little bit about the issues that you're tackling through this new venture?

Rhodri: Yeah. I mean, so the idea behind it―and the website's been going just over a year now―but the idea kind of started a little bit before that when I left CAF. And again, I've been really lucky in some support from the Pears Foundation in the UK, who I work with as well a bit, but they, kinda, core funded it so that I've been able to get this thing off the ground, and it would have been absolutely impossible if it wasn't for that support. I mean, the idea was to, kind of, take the essence of what I'd ended up doing quite a lot at CAF with some of that work, which is trying to say, look, you know, this philanthropy stuff's interesting, but often we're too in the weeds. We're, kinda, just talking about the mechanics of it to other people who are already doing it. But there's something to be said for stopping, taking a step back, and kinda looking at this stuff slightly bigger picture and saying, okay, where's it come from? How does it fit in with all the other stuff that's going on in the world now, and where is it going in the future? And the other elements of it for me, with Why Philanthropy Matters, is, again, my aim is to try and make this stuff as interesting and relevant to a sort of general audience as possible. And I'm not talking about, you know, the kind of daytime, mass-market TV audience―I think that's, kind of, that's another level beyond it, and probably I'm not quite good enough at making it, sort of, publicly saleable for that―but, you know, the kind of interested, general reader, who may or may not have ever really thought about philanthropy before, but maybe they're interested in something else to do with, you know, questions about democracy or the, you know, the housing crisis, or cost of living or whatever. And then they suddenly stumble on this, so they realize that, actually, there’s this angle, you know, where philanthropy, this thing that they never really thought about, or this word that they might have heard somewhere, is relevant. And then they kinda get a sense of, oh, this thing's actually more complicated than I thought, and actually, there's a lot more to it, and it's not just as simple as rich people writing cheques to charities. There's actually, you know, a whole lot of, kind of, dynamics and different ways of looking at this stuff. And it, and it matters because it actually is relevant to all of these big issues that people are grappling with at the moment, about how society works, how we address some of the big challenges we're facing around, you know, climate, and racial justice, and the impact of technology and all this sort of stuff. And then I think the other bit, you know, that's really important to the work I do and has been for a while is that question of, how do we try and give ourselves a bit of space to look ahead? Because the other thing I find in the world of philanthropy and nonprofits is, there's loads of really smart people, and frankly, loads of them who know a lot more about all of this stuff than I do, but what a lot of them don't have is the time and space to do that very often. And so, I'm lucky that I do. And what I want to do is to try and create a space where it kind of helps other people to be able to, sort of, think through some of these problems in a more structured way and to, kind of, think how they touch on different areas of life and could, kind of, offer different debates. And long term, the aim with Why Philanthropy Matters is for it to become a space where other people can use it as well. So, it's not just me saying things that I think about it, but it's a place where other people can, sort of, start conversations and engage, you know, on that same basis of being interested in philanthropy from that bigger picture perspective.

Justin: You know, Ronnie, I think it's interesting because we have these conversations, even you and I have talked about before, you know, we'll be at a social event, and people will ask us about, you know, our job as a part of a nonprofit marketing agency, right? And sometimes you have to stop, and you have to zoom out and say, okay, by the way, there's, in the US, there's 1.8 million nonprofits, and that number grows. And nonprofit, you know, in terms of its impact on the labor market in the US, it's 10 percent of the US workforce. And you talk about the GDP, like, you have to give all framing references, which ties into a lot of the things that I feel like Rhodri is talking about.

Ronnie: Yeah, absolutely. And, like, as you were talking, Rhodri, I was thinking about, kind of, an area where your work and some of the stuff we're talking about and working on intersects. And, you know, one of the things we've been looking at a lot is trust in the nonprofit sector. This declining trust, like, for our listeners, the Edelman Trust Barometer measures trust in various institutions, across the globe, really, and the most recent report found that trust in nonprofits declined below businesses for the first time, and that was kind of like an eye-opening moment for all of us. And so, we actually just commissioned some research where we surveyed some donors, you know, over a thousand donors, and one of the findings that we're just publishing is that transparency is a key driver in trust, And so, I was looking at one of your recent speeches that you gave earlier this year, and you were saying that philanthropy needs to ensure greater openness and transparency so we see where the money has come from, where it's going, and then we can scrutinize and challenge where necessary. So I'm curious on your thoughts―kinda putting you on the spot here, instant think tank―what are your thoughts, like, how can nonprofits do a better job to ensure transparency? Like, what can they do on their end to inform donors and just constituents in general?

Rhodri: I think there's a lot that can be done around things like finding new ways of more voluntarily engaging with, kind of, open data standards. So, there's projects, I know there's projects in the US, things like glass pockets and others, but in the UK, there's a project or an organization called 360Giving, which is trying to open up data on grant making from philanthropic organizations and some government agencies so that people can then see where the money's come from and where it's going―and also can do stuff with that data so it's not just, kinda, there in a PDF somewhere; it's actually, kind of, usable. And, you know, the more that we're getting towards the point where people are gonna wanna apply, you know, new technologies, like machine learning or whatever, to kind of understand better how to address social problems or how to give more effectively. You're gonna need that data. And also, as you say, you know, it's good from a practical point of view, but also from a legitimacy point of view, if we're sort of saying, actually, we're trying to make a positive case for why philanthropy, you know, at all levels, but particularly at the level of, sort of, big money giving, is a good thing in a, you know, in a democracy. To me, that argument only really works if at the very least you're able to, kind of, see where that money’s come from and what it's doing so that you can scrutinize it and challenge it. Because otherwise, there's, you know, without transparency there's not really any accountability. And without accountability, there's no legitimacy, and then the whole thing kind of falls apart. So, I think there's a lot more that can be done there. I guess, part of the challenge―and I know this is more an issue at the moment in the US, but I suspect, you know, as tends to happen, we'll see the same thing in a few years in the UK―is that some of the trends in philanthropy are sort of pushing things in the other direction, so the more that people are using donor advised funds, or the more that elite donors are starting to use limited liability companies, or LLCs, you know, that's kind of dropping the levels of transparency and, kind of, required information ever lower. And as you say, at a time when people are already, you know, levels of trust in nonprofits and in philanthropy are suffering, that seems to me to be problematic. So it's, kinda, how do we get everybody to realize that there's a, you know, there's a collective benefit for all of us in having that kind of openness and transparency, which is hard because the problem, I think, with this, is there's often a sort of first-mover challenge or a collective-action challenge, which is, who wants to be the first person, the first donor or foundation to, kinda, put all the information out there and then attract all the criticism and get shot down. But then if you wait until everybody's doing it, nobody does it. And so, you know, that that kind of thing, we need to find ways of making it safe for everybody to, kinda, move broadly at the same time on this stuff.

Justin: I think you're hitting on some incredibly valid points, and I agree with you that there's a connection between what happens in the US and then, ultimately, a lot of those trends tend to flow into the UK, or vice versa, just in terms of the impact of data privacy and now how that’s seeping into the US in new ways. And what’s really interesting is when you talk about when we’ve had these early conversations on transparency, what I see from practitioners is a knee jerk response of what they already do. And it’s almost that they’re not sitting with the problem long enough to really process and develop ways of trying something different. And it’s, like, a dismissal of the reality that the problem exists, right? It's like, well, we do this, it's in this PDF, it's in this annual report where we communicated this or that or the other. But, you know, in some ways, that's ignoring where it's broken. And so, there's some value in absolutely creating the safe and the brave space for people to stand up and try new things. Also, doing so in a way that recognizes that it's a marathon and not necessarily a sprint, and we got a rush to solve it.

Ronnie: Yeah.

Justin: So, there's two other thoughts that kinda come to mind here, Rhodri, as you're talking and sharing because I'm, you know, we're truly appreciative of the role that you play in creating the discourse. How do you explain your job to your family?

Rhodri: I mean, you know, I don't; I'm not sure I do. I don't know that they really have a clear idea of exactly what it is I actually do. My kids maybe have a broad sense of it. And actually, this past birthday just gone, both of them made me philanthropy-themed birthday cards, which were really quite incisive. So, they're clearly . . . something's rubbing off on them. Yeah. I mean, I guess I tend to explain it in the way that I would . . . I guess what I think is, like, it's a difficult thing to explain philanthropy. It's a difficult thing to explain, you know, jobs within it, and it's even more difficult to explain mine because it's a kind of, it's not really a straightforward role that exists in any, in any sort of other sense. But what I tend to do is, kind of, depending on the audience, there's different ways of framing it. And I think the one that I would explain to my kids is that, you know, most of my job is about trying to help people to give more to charities and to, kinda, make sure that they're supporting them in the best way possible. And some of that is working with people who have lots of money and have decided they wanna give stuff away, and trying to help them to do that in a way that, kind of, is as helpful as possible. But also, it's about making sure you, kind of, recognize that everyone's able to do giving. And that bit always chimes with them because I think, you know, kids immediately get the idea that you should want to help other people, and then, you know, I don't know if you guys have got kids or if you've got, kind of, kids in your family, but it's always really good to be reminded of the fact that this stuff does come pretty naturally to most people, and you don't have to work that hard to convince people of the value of, sort of, you know, giving time and money and helping other people, and it's maybe only when we get older and more jaded that it, sort of, takes more work. And then, actually, kids, you're pushing in an open door if you suggest, you know, do you wanna do for charity or do some fundraising, or volunteering or whatever. And, you know, in my experience, they all wanna do that. And it's, you know, one thing we probably need to think about more is, kind of, why is it sometimes that that stuff does tail off a bit? What are the points in our lives at which, you know, we kinda stop letting that come so naturally? Which, that's a totally off-topic answer. I'm not sure if I answered the question.

Justin: No. No, no. You totally did. Yeah. It's a fascinating idea within our space just because it is such a unique aspect of the world, and it's organizations that are attempting to solve the biggest problems in the world. And it's providing them with thinking and providing them with resources and help. And like you said, trying to bridge that connection of introducing them to people that wanna support them. And so, you know, I think I'm fortunate that my two kids, on the one hand, they understand that; they also think, wow, dad sure does talk to a computer a whole lot.

Rhodri: Yeah.

Justin: It's that kind of balance. When you fast forward into looking ahead into the twilight of your career, many more books and speeches, what do you hope the lasting impact of Why Philanthropy Matters or of Rhodri Davies is on the space?

Rhodri: Wow, you’re getting to the questions that trouble me when I wake at two o'clock in the morning. So, no, I mean, it's a really good question because I guess . . . particularly when you're doing something in a field like philanthropy, but you're doing it at kind of one step removed. So I often, sort of, think, like, what I'm doing is kinda meta-philanthropy in a way, and I'm, sort of, talking about philanthropy and, you know, big picture issues. And I think that stuff is important, but then I do have my moments where I'm, like, yeah, but some other people are just getting on with moving large amounts of money or kind of doing really good work in, you know, grassroots and kind of community level. And should I be doing that instead? And, I guess, what I reassure myself with is that there's a need for all of it. And the weird skill set that I've managed to develop over time seems to be well suited towards this bit, which is the kind of research, writing, kind of, you know, trying to bring ideas to life. People bring in some of that history stuff, and kind of, you know, relate philanthropy to wider issues. I guess when I get to the end of my career and look back, as you say, I would hope there'll be lots more, you know, articles and books and things I'm, you know, proud of. I guess it's less about any of the specific ideas and more―this probably sounds massively, like, egotistical, but, like, a way of thinking about philanthropy that I'd like to leave people with is, kind of, in a way, even if people read all the stuff that I do in my books or in in Why Philanthropy Matters and they can't remember any specific point about philanthropy, if they come away with just a sort of sense of, actually, we can kind of apply, you know, a different way of thinking and sort of step back a bit and kind of realize philanthropy isn’t something that exists in isolation. It's not, kind of, a weird thing that just sits in the corner in one small part of the nonprofit sector, you know? It's actually a pretty, sort of, fundamental thing in society that we have to understand in between, you know, the state and the market. And also, at an individual level. It reflects some pretty fundamental truths about who we are as human beings and the fact we're, kind of, driven to wanna help one another rather than just, sort of, stab each other in the back and compete. So actually, I think when you, kind of, get into that mindset of thinking about philanthropy before all these different angles, that's what keeps you realizing, I think, how interesting and how varied it is and also, kind of, allows you to sense check, you know, what the challenges are and, kind of, how things might evolve in the future in ways that we, kind of, need to be thinking about. And if anybody said, oh, yeah, you know, it really helped me in in my career to, kind of, adopt that mindset, and that was valuable, I could probably, you know, shuffle off this mortal coil halfway at that point.

Ronnie: That's so well said, Rhodri; I can't think of a better way to wrap up this episode than that. So, if people wanna reach out to you or learn more about Why Philanthropy Matters, where can they find you?

Rhodri: The best place is the website, so that's And there, you can find all, you know, lots of articles I've written, you know, at least one guest article and hopefully lots more in the future. Also, all the episodes of the “Philanthropisms” podcast are there as well, and kind of, updates on when I'm speaking at things or things that I've got going on. So, yeah, that's probably the best place to go.

Justin: Rhodri, we truly appreciate you, and for what it's worth, we're paying attention. And so, you know, to know that, hopefully it gives you some semblance of that you're on the right path, that there are people that are, you know, on the opposite side of the globe that are paying attention and appreciate the work that you're doing. And so, thanks for taking the time―especially right before a little getaway, a little holiday―taking the time to chat with us today.

Rhodri: Thanks guys. Yeah. No. I really appreciate having the having the chance to talk. It's great to be asked so many things about yourself.

Justin: Anytime. Anytime, bud.

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.

Solid Gold_Blog Ad

Leave a comment:

MidYear Benchmarks-Sidebar_SolidGold
Gen X eBook download