Navigating Philanthropy and its Shifts: Insights from Philanthropic Advisors

In recent years, the philanthropic landscape has evolved in response to issues of equity and justice. Consequently, many donor families seek guidance and support from philanthropic advisors to help them navigate the complexities of these shifts, ensuring that philanthropic efforts align with and are informed by the communities they serve. 

As families work to translate their philanthropic purpose to impact amid these shifts, advisors serve as key partners, guiding and facilitating the various sticking points and challenges that arise. In a recent Inside Philanthropy article, “Lifting the Curtain on Philanthropy Advising,” the authors note that advising is not passive; advisors play an active role in deepening donors’ understanding of the broader philanthropic landscape, one that is ever-evolving and shifting. 

Like philanthropic families, advisors desire to witness transformation and harness the power of philanthropy to impact communities, causes, and systems. With insights from Yvonne Moore (Moore Philanthropy), Tracy McFerrin (Credo Philanthropy Advisors), and Jessyca Dudley (Bold Ventures)—three of our philanthropic advising partners—we explore how philanthropic advising can support a family’s philanthropy within a dynamic social sector. With their insights, we gain a deeper understanding of how advisors empower and support families while navigating the intricacies of relationships, equity, and meaningful impact. 

From the Family System to Systems Change

For a philanthropic family, translating vision and purpose to impact can be a complex balancing act. While managing internal dynamics, the family is also responsible for effectively serving the communities they aim to support. As the sector, communities, and causes shift, philanthropic advisors can offer invaluable technical, relational, and navigational expertise to help families make an impact. Yvonne Moore, founder of Moore Philanthropy, notes that advisors “play an increasingly critical role in helping donors, the next gen, and the larger wealth team understand these shifts, all while making [the family’s] philanthropy more effective and equitable.”   

Advising through Discomfort & Conflict

Philanthropic advisors help families navigate sensitive conversations, transitions, and conflicts. Tracy McFerrin, principal and founder of Credo Philanthropy Advisors underscores the role of advisors as confidantes, truth-tellers, and bridge-builders, adept at moving families from where they are to where they want to be. Part of their role, she offers, is to facilitate and mediate difficult conversations with various stakeholders, particularly when issues of equity, trust, and community arise in a family’s philanthropy.  Further, while advisors are adept at supporting families with deploying capital, they can also help them understand their relationship to wealth, a topic that can be uncomfortable and difficult to broach. Jessyca Dudley, founder of Bold Ventures, works with families and individuals “to help them gain the confidence needed to understand their relationship with capital.” 

Collaborating with Community

Establishing meaningful connections with community is vital for sustainable change, and philanthropic advisors can play a crucial role in fostering these connections. “I think philanthropy needs to see itself as part of our communities and society, not separate from it,” Tracy offers. Partnering with and learning from community in ways that are truly empowering, not exploitative, presents a notable challenge. Fortunately, philanthropic families need not navigate these complexities alone. 

Like managing familial relationships, advisors can support families with fostering deeper connections with community to pave the way for more impactful, responsive giving. Jessyca and Yvonne stress the importance of amplifying community voice and collaborating closely with movement leaders. Specifically, Jessyca underscores the unique value of advisors as conduits, adept at gleaning insights from those at the forefront of issues and sharing those insights with donor families to inform their approach and deepen their impact. 


Philanthropic advisors are essential partners in navigating the evolving landscape of giving. By fostering a deeper understanding of shifts in the sector, facilitating transformative and uncomfortable conversations, and bridging the gap between families and communities, advisors empower families to translate their philanthropic vision into transformative impact.  

From Yvonne, Tracy, and Jessyca, we learn the value of a collaborative approach to navigating philanthropy and its shifts. Their collective call for thoughtful partnership underscores the critical role that advisors can play in guiding families through an ever-evolving landscape.  

As the philanthropic sector grapples with equity, relationships, and repair, families must move beyond investigation to solutions, albeit complex and challenging. The takeaway: don’t go it alone. 

Shannon Jeffries is the senior manager of network engagement at NCFP