Some of the most common questions families ask me are: How do we choose where to give? How can my family and I agree on something that will inspire us now, and keep us interested over time? And how can we find out what the community truly needs to achieve the best results for our funding area?

It’s difficult yet necessary to choose among the many good causes to fund. Donors may think it’s best to fund many causes rather than narrow it to one or two. After all, doesn’t it sound better to fund more than less? Yet if you ask how to achieve the most good with a foundation or donor’s limited resources, you may answer the question differently.

In time, family philanthropists realize they can only achieve real and lasting impact if they choose a few areas to focus on—be it specific causes, communities, or geographical areas. Some people call this being strategic about their philanthropy. Strategic philanthropy is a term that gets used a lot in the field, often with different meanings. At the heart of it, being strategic simply means finding a focus that is based on community needs, setting specific goals within that focus, and having a thoughtful process to gauge how well you met those goals.

Simply because you decide to be strategic about your philanthropy doesn’t mean you stop being responsive to needs. Some funders maintain a portion of their grantmaking portfolio for responsive grantmaking, giving them the flexibility to make grants as needs in the community arise. Others offer their board or family members discretionary grants, earmarking a certain dollar amount per member to use for their own personal passions or specific to their local community. This allows the philanthropy overall to stay mission-driven, while making sure board or family members stay engaged and interested.

Read the full article about funding landscape by Suzanne Hammer at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.