Imagine the following scenario: an entrepreneur has achieved tremendous success and, finding herself a billionaire, is motivated to give back to help change the world. She contributes billions to endow a new foundation focused on a problem that she feels certain is solvable. She hires staff and strategy consultants, talks to trusted advisors, and gets to work, with minimum distribution requirements looming almost immediately. Pretty soon, the entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist acknowledges that this is hard work. The foundation undergoes further strategy development.

It’s not hard to imagine, is it? We hear stories and see the statistics telling us of new foundations launched and of ever-growing annual philanthropic giving. We read critiques arguing that instead of philanthropy, we need to solve the income inequality that enabled the wealth to accumulate in the first place. Staff of new and established foundations witness the cycle of strategy evolution through internal task forces and the use of strategy consultants. And we see stories of successes and (less frequently) failures in philanthropy.

I won’t enter the fray on the issue of wealth disparity and the critiques of philanthropy here. Suffice it to say that I both agree that wealth disparity is a huge issue in the U.S., and I believe in the power of philanthropy to effect positive change in the world.

So, taking as a given that we will continue to see growth in philanthropy — higher endowments and new philanthropies are emerging every year — what is a new would-be philanthropist or executive of a new foundation to do?

A new research report from CEP, funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in connection with its 10-year anniversary and titled Greater Good: Lessons from Those Who Have Started Major Grantmaking Organizations, offers collective guidance gathered from leaders who have walked the path of starting a new foundation in recent decades. Among the recommendations of these leaders for those in the early stages of their philanthropic work: Be bold. Hire staff with aligned expectations. Learn from others. Be humble.

Read about more about the role of collaboratives by Pam Foster at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.