Over the past 20 years, I’ve spoken with thousands of philanthropists and haven’t found a single slacker. Just the opposite. They put in lots of effort. But many confuse effort with impact.

Many well-intentioned philanthropists are fooled by their own efforts. They grit their teeth and take action, but it doesn’t result in much. That’s because that grit and action aren’t aligned toward a common goal. Donors are under the delusion that their vast efforts will change the world simply because they’re busy.

Just peek into the calendars and to-do lists of any philanthropist. Board meetings, staff meetings, and meetings to plan meetings. Business travel, webinars, and back-to-back calls. Conferences to plan. New initiatives to launch. Grants management software to install. Reports to write. Fundraising events to attend. Proposals to review. Emails to catch up on.

I recently spoke to a foundation CEO who lamented that she and her team would be devoting the next six weeks to preparing for a board meeting. They would have to drop everything they were working on to get ready. The board meeting amounted to a dog and pony show. The board expected them to find and prepare outside experts to speak at the meeting, organize fancy dinners, and graphically design presentation materials. Each program team was to give multi-hour updates on progress since the last time the board met six months ago.

The trouble is, none of it mattered. All this effort was preventing them from doing their important work.

Read the full article about philanthropic strategy by Kris Putnam-Walkerly at Stanford Social Innovation Review.