Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Look at Giving in 2011: Part 2 of 3 in a series…Giving Strategically!

As I mentioned in my past blog, Part 1 in the series...
...we still have a long way to go in philanthropy!

It is really exciting that everybody is giving. That is where change begins. But after having worked in strategic philanthropy for nearly 15 years and across sectors for social, economic, education and health reform, the pattern is a familiar one.

When companies, individuals, celebrities, media, foundations or nonprofits get into giving – they start off in what is considered charitable giving. This is more feel good giving. This is a good place to begin – it feels good and it is doing good that wouldn’t have been done otherwise.

However, just as if you were to invest your money, you wouldn’t just hand it off to your friend and say go invest my millions, you’d hand it to a seasoned investment expert (at least most people would). The same needs to happen in giving - donors working with giving experts to create more strategic, impactful and leveraged giving. While giving feels different than investing because we all want to give and it feels good to give, we want to give thoughtfully so that our dollars actually make a significant impact.

Therefore, before starting our own nonprofit or giving to a nonprofit, it is good for us to do our homework. Find out what else is going on in the same giving space. If we are interested in nonprofits serving children in Los Angeles or the environment in Latin America or human trafficking in Asia, we need to learn what else is out there and build upon what is there, not duplicate. It can be helpful to find out what nonprofits are already serving that need, what foundations are funding those target causes and regions, what celebrities and corporations are backing those causes. You get the idea.

You also want to have a sense for what you want to support. For example do you want to support direct services - like education for youth in an orphanage or health services for malaria or HIV/AIDS or for homeless people or do you want to deal with advocacy efforts to raise awareness and address systemic issues underlying those direct services – like changing health policy or economic development issues or education? And then you want to think about do you want to volunteer, do you want to give money for general operating or specific services, programs or wishes of an organization?

Just as you would invest your money for a return on investment with your investment portfolio, with your donations you are investing your money to have an impact, leave a legacy, get the most return on perhaps not profit – but definitely people and the planet. That is, when you donate, you want to consider how your donation to have the most bang for the buck and the most social and/or environmental impact.

What people sometimes don’t realize as they get into the world of giving and become humanitarians and philanthropists themselves, is that how you give can sometimes be as important as what or whom you give to. Finding resources, tools and experts to support you in your efforts is a critical consideration to maximize your impact and the legacy you leave behind!


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