Can philanthropy reconnect with its movement- building roots? Not to fundraise or to sustain institutions, but to drive real and lasting social change?

This month we celebrate the life and contributions of a man that propelled one of the greatest movements of our time: Dr. Martin Luther King JR. The Civil Rights movement is often referenced, but has never been duplicated.

The question is why? Despite the gross injustices of our time (mass incarceration, gun violence, unemployment, reduction in benefits) and the technology that we have to connect, inform, and mobilize people, why is it so difficult to replicate the viral and focused efforts of that era? As we attempt to address the complexities of our society and endeavor to recreate the movements of the past, we should take some time to consider some elements that all good movements have in common:

1. A clear goal - What do we want? From whom? Big and audacious is necessary. Vague is unacceptable.

2. A long-term strategy – How will the goal be accomplished? What is the plan of action?

3. A national/global frame- The issue has to be framed in a way that makes it relevant to a wide range of people even if it only impacts a smaller group.

4. Clear messaging – What do we want people to say? What is the rallying cry?

5. A backbone organization focused on collaboration – Who is in charge? Who is designing the marketing and messaging? Who is organizing the ‘troops’ and updating the website, etc.?

6. Agility – The work needs to be nimble and responsive to real-time influences and opportunities.

7. Funding or a funding plan – Movements require money.

Ironically, commercial institutions have used some of these same lessons to build frenzies over things that don’t matter. Because of thoughtful planning and brilliant execution, people line up for days to get the latest gadget or to see the next big thing. They have figured out the arts of mobilizing people, building urgency, and changing people’s minds. The question is, “Can philanthropy reconnect with its movement- building roots?” Not to fundraise or to sustain institutions, but to drive real and lasting social change. I hope so.