There’s a lot of complaining going on in the field of philanthropy lately. It feels like philanthropy whack-a-mole. One new idea pops up and everyone loves it. Then it gets whacked down and a new one pops up. The new idea is admired for a while, then the mallet comes to whack it down. And on it goes.

One complaint I’ve noticed lately is against strategic philanthropy. The claims are that strategic philanthropy is too rigid and prescriptive; that the power rests exclusively with the funder determining the strategy and nonprofits, who are closest to the issues at hand, are left out of strategy development; and there are alternative and better approaches to philanthropy such as participatory grantmaking (grantmaking that cedes decision-making power about funding to the communities that funders aim to serve) and trust-based philanthropy (which seeks to alleviate power imbalances between funders and grantees). These approaches are super important and helpful, and funders would be smart to explore and implement them as appropriate.

But these approaches are aren’t alternatives to strategy.

Strategy is a framework within which decisions are made that affect the nature and direction of your philanthropy. Formulating your strategy means identifying your desired future: the change you want to create or the type of philanthropist you want to become. Strategy implementation means understanding your current state and figuring how to get from your current state to your desired future state. This usually involves aligning people, systems and structures.

There’s no reason why strategy formulation and implementation can’t include participatory grantmaking, trust-based philanthropy, design-thinking, human-centered design, an equity lens, or any other approach.

Read the full article about strategic philanthropy by Kris Putnam-Walkerly at Putnam Consulting Group.