Donors can enhance their impact by thinking carefully about what roles they can and should play. In addition to grantmaking, the donor’s role may involve convening, training, media outreach, and many other tools and tactics that can enhance impact.

Roles may include:

  • Innovator/incubator of new ideas, programs or organizations. Philanthropy often acts as the “research and development” sector of society, generating and testing new ideas free of public sector constraints and fueled by the creativity of the donor and grantee.
  • Disseminator/replicator of innovative models and best practices. When programs and approaches are proven effective, funders can play a critical role in replicating or expanding these models and disseminating important findings and ideas.
  • Capacity-building of nonprofit organizations, schools, neighborhoods and fields of interest. These donors work in close partnership with their grantees, offering technical assistance, supporting leadership development and creating networking opportunities. “Venture philanthropy” is one term used to describe highly-engaged activity that aims to build capacity and enhance nonprofit performance.
  • Convener/connector – Donors can play an important role in connecting groups with common goals and interests, building coalitions and convening people around an agenda. Some donors bring together community leaders, experts, grantees, funders and creative thinkers to generate new ideas, build consensus around a shared vision, and share experiences and best practices.
  • Change agent/catalyst to promote social change. Some donors address underlying causes and work to improve systems within their area of interest. They may support research, promote strategic alliances, or raise public awareness. Some donors play the role of public advocate and spokesperson to galvanize action around the issues they seek to influence.

Read the full article about roles for donors at The Philanthropic Initiative.