Building a Philanthropic Playbook – Part One: Building Clarity and Setting the Foundation

breiby@growyourgiving.orgIndividual & Family Giving

I often joke with people that in my former life, I was a college soccer coach because many people don’t understand what the job of collegiate coaching really entails or how the job connects to the work of countless other professions. During my time in college athletics, I also started my own sport psychology consultation business after working under some of the best in the field. Being a college athlete, college coach, and sport psychology consultant has helped me think about philanthropy from a unique perspective. There is so much we can learn from the pursuit of excellence, the relationships between players and coaches, and the intricacies of team building that we can lean into as we explore philanthropy.

One of my favorite sport psychology consultants to follow is Dr. Colleen Hacker. One of my favorite US Women’s Soccer players to follow is Julie Foudy. The two come together several times for conversation on Foudy’s podcast: Laughter Permitted with Julie Foudy. In her December 14, 2022 appearance on Foudy’s show, Dr. Hacker reflected on her three intentions from the past year and how she uses these to shape her decision-making. Rather than resolutions, these intentions are words, thoughts, ideas, or quotes that help her form consistent practices that lead to habits with a purpose. This three-part series takes you through her three intentions and explores how you might apply them to your philanthropy to help build practices and habits that are purposeful, meaningful, and impactful.

Part I – Build Towards Clarity, Set the Foundation
“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many demands,
to commit oneself to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything,
is to succumb to violence.
The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace.
It destroys our own inner capacity for peace.
It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work,
because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
– Thomas Merton

Worthy causes are everywhere with gaps that are large enough that no one individual can solve alone. In philanthropy, it is easy to get lost in the desire to help everyone in everything, to be sucked into the frenzy of unending need. But doing so can leave us feeling lost, exhausted, and disconnected. Stepping out of the chaos requires us to spend some time in reflection, build toward clarity and set a foundation for our work that leans into our own inner wisdom.

As a Philanthropic Advisor, one of my roles is to help donors journey through the process of thinking strategically about their charitable giving. We are a team of question-askers, thought provokers, and mirrors that can help you bring clarity to your charitable work. Here are my recommendations for starting along this path of setting a foundation for your charitable giving:

  • Reflect on Past Giving – Think about your charitable giving over the past year, three years, or five years. What actions have been proactive (done because you were inspired or because the work was meaningful to you) vs. reactive (done because someone else asked you to give)? Which acts of charity were the most meaningful?
  • Center your Values – What are the values that drive your decision-making? Can you connect one or more of your values to an organization or mission that you have supported in the past? What would it look like to apply your values to your charitable giving?
  • Dream About the Future – Who is the philanthropist you aspire to be? What would you like to be remembered for after your lifetime? What are the top one or two issues or causes that you want to be sure are part of your philanthropic legacy?

Use your thoughts and reflections to these prompts to build intention within your charitable giving for the coming year. Try creating a written plan that you will revisit regularly. When you are asked to give, question how it fits into your plan. Actively seek out organizations that align with your values, charitable actions that are meaningful, and issues and causes you want as part of your philanthropic legacy. By relying on your inner wisdom, you can make charitable giving a fruitful and enjoyable process.

A note from the author: Read more in part two of this series to understand how to maximize your philanthropy while aligning your intentions and values.

Authored by: Kelli Doyle, Senior Philanthropic Advisor