Building a Philanthropic Playbook – Part Two: Less is More

breiby@growyourgiving.orgIndividual & Family Giving

Part II – The Less is More Approach
“I want to do fewer things, that are the right things, and I want to do them better.”
– Unknown

Regardless of asset size, all donors have limits to their time and monetary contributions. Not all things you value or want to engage in are attainable with meaningful impact. Rather than trying to do a little bit of everything, think about what it would look like if you did fewer things within your philanthropy but did the right things and did them well. Recommendations for moving forward with a less is more approach:

  • Identify Purposeful Work – After you have taken time to reflect on the recommendations in part one, what stands out to you as a philanthropic priority? Can you identify your top one to three issues, causes, or challenges in our world that you would like to address through charitable giving? Can you write a sentence or a statement that captures your purpose for engaging in philanthropy?
  • Make a Pie – What percent of your giving do you want to be allocated toward purposeful work and what percent should you set aside for responsive or social philanthropy? Of the percent that is allocated for purposeful work, how much of your giving would you like to allocate to each of your top issues or causes? If you think of it as a pie chart for your grantmaking, how big is each slice of the pie?

I am working with a donor who is utilizing this strategy as she is intentionally expanding her grantmaking. She has identified two causes that are deeply meaningful to her in which she wants to strategically invest her philanthropic dollars. She set percentages for those two causes at 60% and 30% and left the final 10% for giving outside of her purposeful work. After the first year of using this strategy, she looked back at her giving to see if she was in alignment with the percentages she set. That evaluation indicated a need to expand her grantmaking in the 60% allocation category. We worked together to identify new organizations that fit within this focus area and explore ways to expand giving to organizations she was already supporting.

The final piece of this intention asks us to consider how to engage in philanthropy more effectively. There are a diverse set of opinions, movements, books, seminars, workshops, and organizations built to support your learning and engagement on this topic. Please reach out to a member of our Philanthropic Advising team if you would like to learn more or explore resources, strategies and tools that are aligned with emerging practices. However, one recommendation that all donors can consider, regardless of your starting point, aligns with the pinnacle of Dr. Hacker’s intention:

“Give them the best of you, rather than what’s left of you.”

Our efforts to bring forth the philanthropist we dream of can expand beyond financial transactions. Nonprofits need charitable dollars, but they can also use other resources that you have available. We encourage donors to bring the best of themselves to this work by considering how to build out their philanthropic efforts across the 6 T’s:

  • Time – volunteering, board service, etc.
  • Talent – sharing your skills (e.g., graphic design, writing or editing, technical skills, etc.)
  • Treasure – financial or in-kind contributions
  • Ties – sharing your connections and peers with organizations and movements
  • Testimony – if you have a lived experience that can contribute to the narrative of an organization, share your experience if you are able and willing to do so while maintaining your physical, mental, and emotional health
  • Truth – educate yourself and those around you about the issues, advocate

As you begin to do fewer things, that are in alignment with purposeful work, doing them better by layering on additional elements of charitable support may begin to flow naturally. In other instances, time, patience, and a more nuanced approach to the philanthropic relationship may be needed. In either situation, by adding additional resources beyond the monetary contribution you can begin to move towards a more significant impact on the organization, issue, or cause.

A note from the author: Be sure to read part one of this series to gain an understanding of having a strong foundation of knowing yourself and your values around your philanthropic goals. Then, continue on to part three of this series for recommendations and tangible ways to deepen your philanthropic impact.

Authored by: Kelli Doyle, Senior Philanthropic Advisor