With the COVID-19 global health crisis, economic insecurity, racial unrest, and environmental peril unfolding simultaneously, the world is looking for solutions. While it's understood that no single sector can address any of these challenges alone, each sector must look at the landscape, assess its role, and strive for solutions that rebuild equitable social systems.

For the field of philanthropy, the good news is that the resources exist: There is an abundance of private capital available to funnel into the social sector to catalyze change. The challenging part is that figuring out how to effectively deploy those resources can be a daunting undertaking even for the most experienced philanthropists, let alone those that are just starting out. We can quote many a successful philanthropist about the ease of making money relative to effectively giving it away.

Wanting to tip the scale toward greater rather than less giving, the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy (CSP) assessed the landscape of ultra-high-net-worth philanthropy to identify trends and determine ways in which this demographic can  best  make an impact with their philanthropy. In June, CSP produced Stepping Off the Sidelines: The Unrealized Potential of Strategic Ultra-High-Net-Worth Philanthropy, a report taking an in-depth look at the giving patterns and best practices of ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

In our research, CSP set out to determine what  barriers  philanthropists  need to overcome to give more and give more strategically. We heard some resounding answers. First, the amount of information available nowadays is  overwhelming.  Interviewees expressed a desire for greater curation and guidance to process information from reliable sources. We also heard that building a baseline understanding of key trends or concepts was intimidating, even though individuals fully understood that this knowledge would be critical if they hoped to engage meaningfully with causes and grantees. Essentially, it’s an information jungle out there.

As a follow up, CSP partnered with Rob and Cindy Citrone's family philanthropy, Citrone 33,  to develop and launch the Philanthropist’s Field Guide, a collection of short articles to showcase the how’s of engaging in philanthropy. Structured into three phases designed to meet donors “where they are,” content covers a range of topics on how to get started, get structured, and give smarter. Readers can plug in to the guide at any stage of their giving, review content that is most relevant to them, and learn more about specific practices and tools to advance their philanthropy  (e.g., from the common private foundation to the more exotic LLC).  Additional  materials from original and external sources are shared at the end of each article, to provide further depth and direction.

Other resources that function similarly to the Field Guide do exist in the philanthropic ecosystem. Notable contributions include Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ Philanthropy Roadmap and the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society’s Philanthropy Toolkit.  Additionally, Giving Compass serves as a comprehensive hub promoting access to these  kinds of resources and issue-specific content.

Since getting trusted information in the hands of UHWNIs is the main barrier that CSP’s Field Guide addresses, the point is to “meet our readers where they are” and package concepts and best practices to those who may be connected to the Milken Institute  and not otherwise reaching content from other philanthropy support organizations. As we like to say and think is fitting in the philanthropic sector, “The more, the  better!”

Strategic philanthropy is an involved and iterative process. While we know that no single asset is sufficient to serve as a do-it-yourself resource, the Field Guide functions as a curated source of information that is digestible, credible, and offers glimpses into key concepts that philanthropists may wish to dig into more and act upon. The guide will continue to evolve and expand, existing as a living resource that can facilitate access to the latest leading practices in strategic philanthropy.

Philanthropy is a personal journey, and we hope that the Field Guide does its part in paving the way for more philanthropic capital to be deployed—from small steps to big leaps—and in ways that are intentional and effective.

Read the full Philanthropist's Field Guide at Milken Institute's Center for Strategic Philanthropy.