“I’m an education funder.” 

“I give to nonprofits focused on the environment.”

For many of us, our philanthropic identity is directly tied to the causes we are most passionate about. It’s common to focus our energies on the “what” and “where” we give, but how we give is just as important.

“There wasn’t a single source to acclimate donors to effective practices based on their philanthropic identity,” said Elaine Martyn, senior vice president, Private Donor Group, Fidelity Charitable

Discovering Your Philanthropic Identity: Giving Approaches, Strategies, and Philosophies” is that source. The primer – which offers donors a way to reflect on their passions and priorities – highlights eight “clusters” identified by grouping together related concepts, such as trust-based philanthropy and community-led philanthropy. It can be used as a “201” companion piece to Fidelity Charitable’s “Boost Your Giving IQ.” 

Authors Martyn and Jason Franklin, principal and founder of Ktisis Capital (along with their colleagues Tobi Becerra and Michael Pratt), tapped their experience working closely with individual donors to demystify the path toward impactful giving.

“This primer offers donors the chance to uncover ideas and opportunities to become more effective donors,” said Franklin. “Making a gift to a nonprofit is easy, developing a thoughtful giving strategy that helps create change takes work,” added Martyn.

To navigate the path towards impactful giving, you need to know who you are and how your identity might inform your giving journey. Our race, gender, wealth, power and privilege, among other traits, all help inform how we approach problems and solutions. In philanthropy, these dimensions play a critical role in building an effective and equity-focused giving strategy.

For example, a donor might identify community violence prevention and access to educational support services for youth as the issues areas they fund, driven by their values of community, justice, and equity. In working through how to translate their philanthropic goals and values into a strategic giving practice, the donor realizes that taking a trust-based and community-led giving approach is necessary. By deepening relationships with and trust in the organizations they fund, and even formally ceding decision-making power to nonprofits most proximate to the issues, the donor's unrestricted support allows their grantees to be nimble, responsive, and free to leverage their assets in the most effective ways. 

“Every donor wants to have an impact with their giving, but knowing how to improve your giving can be a challenge,” said Franklin. “With this primer, donors can identify approaches and concepts in contemporary philanthropy that might align with their giving goals and serve as a jumping off point for further exploration.”

The Importance of Language

Spend even a small amount of time in the philanthropic sector and you’ll be bombarded by ever-evolving jargon and phrases that can be daunting to keep up with for even the most seasoned donor. 

Martyn said it was an intentional choice to focus the primer heavily on the words used to describe philanthropy practices and principles.

“By naming these concepts, we can remove the barriers that exist for donors,” Martyn said.

The eight highlighted clusters address funding approaches including systems change, justice, social innovation, and impact investing. While donors might find themselves leaning toward certain concepts, Martyn notes that some donors she works with have found that multiple philanthropic identities can overlap in their work.

“We find that starting with identity helps fast track your impact in your community in a more connected and meaningful way,” she said.

With this guide, Martyn and Franklin said they hope to push donors away from thinking solely through the lens of an issue, and towards a place where their strategies lead to impact giving.

“When we talk about impact giving, we focus on the three I’s: Intentional, informed, and inclusive,” Martyn said. “Identity is the fourth I.”