Session 581


The global philanthropy sector is on the move in unprecedented ways, popping up in new places, growing in scale, and diversifying in form. At its best, philanthropy confronts global challenges with big ambitions, using holistic and innovative approaches to tackle the complex issues that define our times and our life chances - from conflict and climate change to education, health and social justice. Yet while the financial resources at stake get major coverage, much less attention is paid to the skills critical to optimize these financial flows for the long-term public good.

People are arguably the most important asset and source of renewal for the global philanthropy sector. Thoughtful and creative program staff can think systemically and work collaboratively across diverse sectors. Resourceful and imaginative operations staff are able to build efficient and effective processes and systems that are directly aligned to the organization's values, mandate and strategy. Visionary leaders need to be capable of bold but pragmatic action. All these individuals have to work effectively within and across organizations, in workplace cultures that nurture and reward innovation, wise risk‑taking, continuous learning and high‑quality performance.

Historically, the philanthropy sector has not always paid significant attention to human resources, often viewing this as an administrative function responsible for payroll, benefits administration and logistical aspects of recruitment. This contrasts with the global corporate sector, where human resources operations now prioritize the recruitment, development and engagement of talented employees as the precondition for market success. In the best‑run businesses, the Chief Human Resources Officer (or Chief Talent Officer, or, now growing in popularity, Chief People Officer) reports directly to the CEO and serves as one of the top advisers and architects of business strategy. Significant investment is devoted to forward planning and carefully-executed policies for employee engagement, training and evaluation to optimize organizational resilience and performance. As the global philanthropy sector continues to expand and to professionalize across different regions, there is widening recognition of the critical importance of human resources to enable foundations to attract, recruit, and engage talented staff who can optimize the anticipated growth of charitable giving well into the 21st century.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Salzburg Global Seminar, the overarching theme of our programs is on courage - and celebrating the courage in all of us. In a period of mistrust of our institutions, and crisis in our governance and corporate systems, courage is needed more than ever to navigate the anxieties of an uncertain world. Philanthropy, and the people that make up our charitable foundations, plays an important role in bridging divides, building trust, and addressing the need for a new civic imagination that is inclusive of all people in a globalized, connected world.

Building on a 2013 meeting held in Bellagio, Italy, this second gathering on global talent management in philanthropy included a more diverse range of foundations and human resources professionals to ensure more personal interaction and support deeper individual learning and impact.

Session Format

The session has been highly participatory, with a strong focus on sharing insights from various regions, and aggregating perspectives and experiences from specific areas of expertise within human resources. Lectures, group discussions, case studies, and smaller group conversations focused on new and ongoing challenges to talent management, identify specific skill and leadership training opportunities, and further the network of talent management professionals in philanthropy. Collectively the group prepared recommendations for the global philanthropic sector.

Key Questions

  • Looking forward to philanthropy in 2030, what are the key trends for this sector and how do these vary between major global regions?
  • What kind of talent and skills do foundations need now and in the near future, and how do we design recruitment to attract them?
  • What are the most innovative practices in talent management in regions around the world, and how could these be applied to the philanthropic sector?
  • How can approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion best be woven into organizational recruitment, operating culture, and program outcomes?
  • What is the role of human resources leaders in shaping the ethos of their organizations?

Session Newsletters

Day 1

Day 2

Outcomes and Impact

The 2017 program has been designed to generate:

  • A set of strategic principles that can be contextualized by country and/or region.
  • Thematic plans that include recommendations for expanding best practices in talent management in foundations across varying types, sectors, sizes, and geographies.
  • Ongoing cross-border learning and collaborations among participants and the institutions they represent.

Graphic Facilitation by Peter Durand

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