In a world with no shortage of places where you can make a difference and where philanthropic capital is needed, it can be hard to know where to start. A clear philanthropic purpose can not only help you get started, but it also creates a set of guardrails, helping you focus your giving by weighing opportunities against your philanthropic purpose—your motivations, values, principles, and priorities.

As you discuss the importance of your philanthropic purpose, consider why you and your family want to give, and why you want to give together. Your answers will illuminate your passions and the legacy you want to build—and uncover your shared philanthropic purpose.

Your purpose is your north star and something you should continually return to, not only as you make funding decisions, but also in the ways you operate. Family philanthropies with an articulated purpose are better able to make decisions that support the organization’s collective goals. The benefits of having a clear philanthropic purpose also include:

  • Language and ideas that help unify families around a common agenda
  • Clearer guidelines for group decision making and more effective governance
  • More meaningful measures of impact and accountability
  • Clearer statements of donor intent to guide the philanthropy beyond the donor’s lifetime

If your philanthropic vehicle is designed to last over many years and/or generations, it is important to keep in mind that conditions change and our understanding of critical needs also evolves. As you think about and develop your philanthropic purpose, and document it through tools such as a statement of donor intent, mission statement or list of values, you will likely wish to balance clear language with room for future leaders to both revisit the purpose in the context of present conditions, as well as affirm and honor the work that has come before.

Read the full article about finding your philanthropic purpose at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.