The start of a new year (after a flurry of impassioned charitable donation outreach at the end of the tax year) is a good time to think about intentional giving. It’s also a great reminder that no matter how much you have to give, the core aspects of grantmaking remain the same, namely: create and name your goals, practice humility and learn from others, and know that making mistakes will be part of the learning journey. These maxims are as true for the veteran philanthropist as they are for the newly minted giver. Remember to review these at the outset of each new philanthropic endeavor to ensure a thoughtful and realistic plan is in place.
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The challenges nonprofits address aren’t easy to solve and they often need to employ experimental approaches without fear of losing funding.
1. Create and name your goals. Setting goals for what you hope to achieve with your giving should actually help you narrow your interests. These goals should reflect your passions and values. To help determine what they might be, ask yourself a few questions:
- What types of organizations (for-profit or nonprofit) do you admire? Why?
- Have you ever given money following a specific appeal? What spoke to you?
- What gets you excited and/or aggravated when reading/watching the news?
You might consider creating personal vision and mission statements to guide your giving that can serve as a reminder of what you hope to achieve. Since meaningful change can take time, it is helpful to establish realistic benchmarks that allow you to measure progress and course correct if necessary.
2. Practice humility and learn from others. Chances are, you won’t be tackling a previously unaddressed challenge with your philanthropy. Take the time to do research: use philanthropic websites to seek out donors who are addressing the issues that interest you. Find out what approaches they take, why they take them, and what has worked, and most importantly, what hasn’t worked and why. In addition, nonprofits love the opportunity to speak about their work and they can be some of your best sources of information. Call them up and find out what they do, why they do it, and—especially if they operate in a smaller community—who else is working on the same issue, but maybe with different tactics.
3. Know that making mistakes is part of the journey. The challenges nonprofits address aren’t easy to solve and they often need to employ experimental approaches without fear of losing funding. Corporations write off poor investments; allow the nonprofits you support to do the same, provided you have faith in their ability to apply what they’ve learned from their mistakes going forward. If it appears an organization is making the same mistakes repeatedly, talk to someone on the inside to gain a better understanding before continuing to invest.
Above all else, your philanthropy should be meaningful to you, so that the time you invest will be rewarding. And if you engage strategically, the impact you helped create will be all the more satisfying.
Original contribution by Sampriti Ganguli, CEO of Arabella Advisors and Diana Tyler Heath, Senior Director and Head of Business at Arabella Advisors.
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