One of the perennial questions we receive from funders is how to respond to the multitude of needs in their communities and elsewhere. If we’re too responsive in our grantmaking, giving only to those who seek us out, how are we being strategic? If we’re only proactive in our grantmaking, funding only efforts we uncover to tackle issues we want to address, what opportunities will we miss? With the sudden onslaught of crises in 2020, it’s no surprise that funders are asking these questions more often as they seek to find a balance between maintaining support in some areas and pivoting to adequately address new challenges. What do you see as the highest and best uses of philanthropy in addressing today’s challenges?

Whether you are a new funder seeking to strike that balance early in your journey, or a more established funder assessing current strategies, it is helpful to think through pros and cons of responsive and proactive giving strategies, and to consider what approaches will best support your philanthropic goals.

Responsive Giving: Pros and Cons

Grantmakers may wish to pursue a more responsive approach when there seems to be a need for broader-based support of a range of groups and issues. This approach can open the door to critical support for smaller, more nimble, and newer nonprofits, and allow funders to respond quickly to needs that arise after a crisis.

Proactive Giving: Pros and Cons

Through proactive approaches, funders can develop a roadmap for tackling ambitious philanthropic goals, and can capitalize on opportunities for leverage, learning, and leadership. Proactive approaches can include designing a Request for Proposals focusing on specific goals, engaging in strategic long-term partnerships with grantee organizations, and critically in 2020, convening public and private funders with shared goals in order to align funding efforts. Regardless of the approach, philanthropic resources that are invested in highly strategic ways can build on existing knowledge and lessons, encourage unconventional ideas, and support innovative approaches with potential to catalyze lasting change.

Read the full article about responsive and proactive giving by Leslie Pine at The Philanthropic Initiative.