Delphine Moralis Highres Colour 9 see
Delphine Moralis

“Philanthropy has a vital role in these challenging times”

15 November Nov 2020 1650 15 November 2020
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Interview with Delphine Moralis, who has been appointed Chief Executive of the EFC- European Foundation Centre, a Brussels-based organisation made up of more than 240 of the most important international philanthropic institutions. The EFC’s first female CEO, Moralis has several years of international experience in building and leading pan-European associations and organisations. She has spoken to Vita International about the role of philanthropy and of the EFC in these crucial times

“Philanthropy’s role in these critical times is to rise to them, and not shy away from the challenges no matter how tough they may be. (....) We are faced with cross-cutting crises that are simultaneously current but also long term. Philanthropy can face both these aspects because of its independence and local, community roots. Our role is also to recognise that these challenges can’t be met alone, and that it is only by working together that we will prevail. We need a truly holistic approach to facing these challenges which go beyond individual sectors and geographies”. These are Delphine Moralis’ words, the new EFC Chief Executive, who was appointed in July 2020 and took up the post at the end of September. She is the EFC’s first female Chief Executive and succeeds Gerry Salole, who retired at the end of July, after leading the EFC for the past 15 years. Delphine Moralis brings several years of international experience in building and leading pan-European associations and organisations, among which Terre des Hommes International Federation, Missing Children Europe, Child Focus and Cable Europe. She is board member and advisor at Concord, the European NGO confederation for relief and development.

Based in Brussels, the European Foundation Centre is a leading platform for philanthropy in Europe, which works to strengthen the sector and make the case for institutional philanthropy as a formidable means of effecting change. With more than 30 years of experience, the EFC counts 246 members and affiliated partners, who are based in over 30 countries in Europe and around the world. Delphine Moralis speaks to Vita about the challenges of the EFC and her new role.

Delphine Moralis Highres Colour 9 see

Delphine Moralis

Do you think that your position as the new Chief Executive of the European Foundation Centre will be an important opportunity in these challenging times?
I think it is a crucial opportunity, and this at a time when the issues at the heart of our members’ work have been accelerated by the pandemic. Inequality, climate change, democracy, and health, they all include an urgent call for action for the philanthropy sector to step up to the plate and work with other stakeholders to find solutions.This is the time to align philanthropy’s goals with those of the wider world, especially with 10 years remaining of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We also can’t afford to miss the emerging opportunities at EU level with the new European Commission and with the priorities under President von der Leyen so closely reflecting those of our sector. This is a time to be looking outwards, working in partnerships and seeing how we can be part of wider, more holistic solutions. While there is a real need for us to step up our game and there are definitely opportunities for doing so, we should not lose sight of the fact that critical voices on our sector are increasing. When criticism comes calling, we need to be open and confident enough to discuss it, learn from it and use it to further improve the philanthropic model. One of the requirements the EFC has of its members is to sign up to the EFC Principles of Good Practice, which promote the core values that we believe every philanthropic organisation should aspire to embrace. We should always strive to do things better.

How is philanthropy changing during this COVID phase?
Philanthropy has had to react quickly to the pandemic – in terms of mitigating it, in terms of supporting those most at risk, and in terms of adapting its own operations and employee communication during lockdown, through teleworking and so on. In the words of Einstein ‘in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity’, and this crisis has been a catalyst for the philanthropic sector to think and work more collaboratively and creatively. EFC’s survey earlier this year of the membership showed that almost 80% have launched new initiatives including emergency funds, funds to mitigate economic consequences post emergency, and new research projects including, of course, vaccine research. It has also been a period for showcasing that philanthropy is about more than just giving money – we have seen fantastic examples of our members’ volunteering time and spaces, sharing resources and skills, and other non-monetary efforts. But while philanthropy has risen to the challenge in terms of responding to the crisis, the sector itself is also suffering from the impact. In many cases this has been severe, with almost 70% of those who responded saying that programmes/initiatives they run would be harder to implement in light of the current situation. Philanthropic organisations - and their grantees - are already navigating an economic storm that is expected to get worse before it gets better.

What is the role of philanthropy in these critical times?
This carries on from the previous answer – philanthropy’s role in these critical times is to rise to them, and not shy away from the challenges, no matter how tough they may be. When you consider the global spirals in inequality, health, closing of the democratic space, political polarisation, climate change and so on, it is clear that these are issues that philanthropy has been working on for a long time. But in turn, when you consider the immediacy of some of these issues – such as COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter activism for example– you understand that the need has never been so great, or so urgent. We are faced with cross-cutting crises that are simultaneously current but also long term. Philanthropy, as we often say, can face both these aspects because of its independence and local, community roots. Our role is also to recognise that these challenges can’t be met alone, and that it is only by working together that we will prevail. We need a truly holistic approach to facing these challenges which go beyond individual sectors and geographies. It is applicable at every level, from cohesion needed between philanthropic organisations, to infrastructure bodies to those stakeholders outside the sector pulling together for the common good. A great idea would be to add a 4th ‘P’ to the current 3 Ps of Public-Private Partnerships, by including Philanthropy. This would make for a truly powerful force to tackle today’s and tomorrow’s big challenges. Again, collaboration is key.

How are the priorities of the EFC’s interventions changing in this period?
Our membership is charged with finding answers to some of the most complex and critical challenges our world faces – from rising inequality to diminishing social justice, not to mention climate change and migration. Our overall priority is always to support our membership in the work that they do, and as their priorities change we have to be flexible and responsive enough to reflect them, and the best examples of this year have been on COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. So I would say we have three priorities: First, to provide opportunities for our members to do more and better together through peer learning, collaboration platforms and so forth. Second, to build stronger relationships with others outside the sector – in particular the EU – because philanthropic values are European values. Many other stakeholders are working on health, climate change, inequality and social justice, and this harmonises with the European philanthropy agenda, so we need to make sure philanthropy is part of a wider coalition. Third, to represent the sector we believe so strongly in, which ties in to the first priority of showcasing the contribution of our members. We will endeavour to bring courage, humility, and an open minded partnership approach to all three areas.

What are the sectors that the EFC will particularly focus on during your mandate? As you have been working in the field of development and human rights, will migration issues and the development of Africa, as well as children’s rights, be among the priorities of the EFC?
These issues have indeed always been close to my heart and as you say a central part of my career to date. As such, I am delighted that so many of the most prominent philanthropic organisations working in these areas are members of the EFC. But while we are already working on these topics - and will continue to do so – I am also excited about the broader mandate that comes with leading the EFC, the opportunity to delve into so many other diverse areas important to our membership, our sector and citizens and governments all over the world, for example research, the environment & sustainability, arts & culture and so on. I also believe these sectors are not necessarily operating in isolation, and that cross-fertilisation can contribute to achieving the respective goals of our diverse members. Indeed this is what the EFC is all about: working collaboratively for inspiration and joint action.

How do you think it is possible to strengthen the role of philanthropy in Europe?
I think there are a number of things that need to be in place for a stronger role for philanthropy. A key element is infrastructure; we have to make sure that European philanthropy speaks with one clear, unified voice to the outside world because that ensures that we are representative of a whole sector, and that our voice has a better chance of being heard, and more importantly listened to. Another key, as I said earlier, is to connect better with that outside world, engage more in EU and national agendas and address issues both at European and national level, because these issues are bigger than any one sector can address alone. And finally, I would say that diversity doesn’t mean division – as a sector we can speak clearly in a unified voice on key issues but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one another and celebrate the strength that comes from diversity. It’s about bringing our different strengths to the table to tackle the biggest challenges, and where once we talked about the benefits of working together, we are now talking of outright necessity.

What do you think about philanthropy in Italy? What is the role of the participation of Italian foundations in the EFC?
Italian philanthropy has a long and rich history, with some organisations dating back to medieval times. Since the Amato Law 30 years ago, Italian foundations of banking origin have been on a journey of growth, as have family, corporate and community foundations. The journey has been one of development, evolution, and increased capacity and innovation. As such, you could say that they have contributed significantly to building the philanthropy sector in Europe, and their emergence has gone hand in the hand with the EFC’s own journey, as it was founded in 1989. Certainly within our membership the Italian constituency is vitally important – not only are they the largest group by country (35 organisations), they are also heavily involved in our Thematic Networks and peer learning Communities of Practice. On top of that, they are historically an essential part of EFC leadership and governance as well as programmes such as TIEPOLO. Our Italian members make a tremendous contribution, both financially and non-financially, to the ongoing work of the EFC and go a long way to making it what it is today.

Picture of Delphine Moralis: courtesy of EFC