If you’re looking for guidance on how to approach your giving, there is no shortage of resources—a quick web search will offer thousands of resources and dozens of purported best practices. The challenge is making sense of it all—and determining which insights will actually support you.

This primer aims to help with that. Specifically, this primer will help:

  • Clarify your philanthropic identity with reflections and tools around your passions and priorities
  • Translate your philanthropic identity into effective practices with an overview of giving philosophies, strategies, and approaches

Your Philanthropic Identity

The essential first step in becoming an effective giver is to consider your identity as a donor. Who are you and what backgrounds, skills, and networks do you bring to your giving? How do they inform (or potentially bias) how you understand social problems and possible solutions?

Identity Dimensions

Start by considering how your unique identity informs your charitable giving. Common identity characteristics are race, gender, and age, but it’s also essential to think about many other aspects of your identity: class (both origin, how you grew up, and your current status), wealth (specifically the amount, source, and control), education, faith, ethnic heritage or diaspora membership, professional affiliations, geographic connections (where you live or grew up, where your family is or is from), ability/disability, sexual orientation, and more. These aspects of your identity shape your view of the world, inform your giving journey, offer insights, and sometimes create blind spots.

Translating Identity, Priorities, and Passions into Practice

Finally, it’s important to connect all of yourself to your giving as you translate your passions and interests into a set of giving priorities and practices. As you build your giving plan, we encourage you to balance both what you care about and what the world needs, and to look through the philosophies, strategies, and approaches below to identify the ones that resonate. It’s critical to maintain a level of honesty and humility as you craft and iterate your plan and continue to glean insight from those who have spent their lives working on the issues you care about or are directly affected by the challenges you hope to address.

Philosophies, Strategies, and Approaches

Determining which funding strategy or approach is right for you is an essential aspect of translating your philanthropic identity into an effective giving practice. Unfortunately, like every sector, philanthropy is brimming with terminology and jargon. Those terms overwhelmingly evolve, overlap, and distort over time and are seemingly endless in their variations and, in practice, often used interchangeably. The following section aims to help you cut through that confusion.

Making Sense of It All

In support of seeking clarity, we find it helpful to think about these big terms—giving strategies, philosophies, approaches, etc.—as broad “categories” that, while certainly overlapping, have slightly different and nuanced orientations:

  • Giving Philosophies: values, principles, and core beliefs
  • Giving Approaches/Styles: standards or patterns of behavior and conduct
  • Giving Strategies: specific goals, objectives, plans, and outcomes
  • Giving Tactics: specific vehicles and activities, often within the short-term service of broader goals and objectives
  • Giving Lenses: a comprehensive way to examine and understand the world or work, with special emphasis on the way things intersect and crosscut
  • Giving Focus: topical and issue-specific prioritization