Felix Oldenburg on Next Philanthropy

WINGS sits down with Felix Oldenburg of the German Association of Foundations to find out a little bit more about Next Philanthropy.

1. Why did the Association of German Foundations decide to lead a global conversation about Next Philanthropy?

I hope we have only initiated the discussion but all partners will end up leading and owning it. Next Philanthropy is a large puzzle, and the pieces are scattered across the globe. If we put them together, we can inspire philanthropists, foundation leaders, and ourselves to reach beyond our current limits of geography, technology, culture, and regulation. My hope is that we will not only influence the thinking of existing philanthropic organisations but help new foundations enter new spaces.

2. What are the most significant trends Next Philanthropy has identified in Germany and beyond? Are these trends more positive or negative?

It is a little early for Next Philanthropy but a lot of people have a lot of smart things to say about the evolution of giving. My own hypotheses revolve around combining grants and investments, unlocking mass participation, creating global coalitions, and making foundations more collaborative and entrepreneurial.

3. What are the key “unexpected topics” around Next Philanthropy? Is technology shaping the conversation?

When it comes to technology, we have seen nothing yet. The Digital Age is still in its infancy. The question is how to create organisations that can adapt and reinvent themselves while staying true to an unchanging social purpose.

4. Do you see some specific trends emerging in the philanthropy support ecosystem?

My point of reference is not the support ecosystem as we know it today but the professional services landscape that has emerged in business. Once we start to get serious about collaborating, innovating, outsourcing etc., we will need many more support organisations, and existing foundations may understand they can also be each other’s support organisations. To borrow another framing from business: Much of institutional philanthropy thinks B2C. More B2B could lead to a far more efficient AND impactful sector that really works across borders and not only in a rather limited space.

5. How do you see the future of philanthropy, let’s say in the next 5 to 10 years? How can we be prepared for the main changes?

I hope philanthropy will be able to tap into the massive wealth that is accumulating across the world (and not only in the hands of a few, there is also a quickly growing middle class), and create compelling mechanisms to attract it in order to create impact. There is no reason philanthropy should be dwarfed by government or business. There is no reason it should be a side show at global events. If it can create new mechanisms of participation and transparency, it could be the critical missing piece to actually achieve many of the SDGs – whether directly or indirectly by creating pressure for solutions.

6. How can philanthropic actors engage in the discussion about Next Philanthropy in their specific contexts?

That is up to the creativity of the Next Philanthropy partners. In Germany, we start with small but meaningful engagement of board members and staff, for example with a weekly news briefing. We have also created Next Philanthropy channels online, in our print publications, and our major events. We are also planning a podcast miniseries. Most of this is tailored to our audience, and in German. I know that Alliance Magazine and other partners have big ideas. I hope that by this time next year, we will be in a multi-faceted conversation involving a real diversity of views. Tune in to #NextPhilanthropy every once in a while – and contribute yourself!


The initial partners of this open effort include Alliance magazine, African Venture Philanthropy Alliance (AVPA), Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE), European Venture Philanthropy Alliance (EVPA), and Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS).


Felix Circle Picture


Felix Oldenburg
Secretary General
Association of German Foundations

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