From Values to Passions, and Ultimately to Your Focus
Charitable giving is influenced by more than your values. Your interests, concerns, and passions also play a role. Identifying your passions will help you as a family understand what will make charitable giving worthwhile to you, what will hold your attention, and spark your enthusiasm. How do you find your passions and translate them into a philanthropic game plan? Like values, passions usually spring from important life experiences-you may have been touched by an injustice or inspired by someone or something. They may stem from your professional experience and expertise. Balance what the family as a whole wants to do with what individual family members want to do and choose one or a manageable few primary areas of interest for funding. Defining your area of focus allows you to build a mass of intelligence on a subject You become more knowledgeable on that topic, more interested in decision making, and more confident that your giving will be effective. If your family has many different interests, consider agreeing on a funding focus that will be the family’s focal point for a set period of time. Look at the issues or institutions you care most about.
Find Ways Your Giving Can Make a Difference.
- If you could make only two grants in a given year, to whom would you make them?
- Research the areas you and your family are interested in.
- Volunteer your time and talents to make a contribution while also learning more about your favorite issues and organizations.
Guidelines for Effective Strategic Giving
One of our goals at Hudson Community Foundations is to help you and your family make the most of you charitable activities. Following are useful tips to becoming a more effective giver.
- Be Patient
One of the most important elements in effective giving is allowing time for it, which requires care and attention. As you give yourself time to become more effective, you’ll likely find your giving will become more rewarding and fulfilling. The more you learn, the better charitable giver you’ll become.
- Reflect Your Family’s Values
To whom, how, and where you give depends on your core values, beliefs, and basic assumptions. Whether your giving is large or small, to one charity or to many, locally or nationally, you must enjoy your work together. As with any venture, you will find it.
- Be An Active Participant
Go beyond reactive to the never-ending stream of requests, and take charge of your giving.
- Work with favorite charities as partners
Work to enhance your favorite charities’ capabilities. Is your grant helping to build a stronger organization, developing new leadership, or building the skills of these in the community served? Don’t forget; it is OK to say “No” if you are unsure about an organization or simple feel uncomfortable giving.
- Be Flexible
Look for gaps, issues and opportunities where your funding leadership can make a substantial difference. Regardless of the size of your charitable gift, be a listener. Don’t assume that you know in advance what is needed.
- Create A Focus For Giving
Determine a focus for concentrating your charitable resources and chose primary areas of interest for funding. The goal is for your to move away from responding to requests at the end of the year to making decisions about what you and your family want your funding to accomplish.
Make your gift go a long way. Find financial collaborators, fill key gaps, and help to build the capacity of organizations to achieve long-term success.
- Seek Opportunities for learning
Find ways to formally learn about philanthropy and your interest areas. Such experiences can expose you to new viewpoints and help you develop your focus for giving. Opportunities include attending conferences, attending education programs at the Foundation, visiting programs and charities, conversing with other donors, and communicating with practitioners and advocates who actively work in your areas of interest. Through this research, identify where your resources might make the most difference on the issues that you care most about.
- Take Risks
By taking educated risks, you may uncover new programs that address unique community problems.
- Be Results Oriented
Think about what you hope to accomplish with your giving. Ask gift recipients to keep you informed of their progress and try to measure the impact of your giving. When you are certain that your dollars are being used for the best causes, you’ll feel more comfortable with your philanthropic choices.
Ways To Give
Following are four ideas of how your family may choose to assist your favorite charities. Remember though, that there are a variety of other options for giving that your family may wish to employ to support the organizations doing the important work you care about.
- Provide capital support
These are funds that an organization needs to build, expand, or renovate a facility, or purchase the equipment necessary for providing services. Charities develop a “capital campaign” or work plan to raise funds necessary to purchase or build their project. These campaigns generally last several years. When considering a capital gift, look for evidence that the charity is capable of raising the entire sum needed for the project.
- Provide operating support
Just like any business, charities have general administrative and overhead costs that are not directly related to a specific program or service. The money needed to cover theses costs is vital, but often difficult to secure. General donations are used to provide an agency’s core programs and services, not operating support. Your family could designate contributions to help cover administrative expenses.
- Support or create endowment funds
An endowment is a fund of money that is invested long term, producing annual investment income. Endowment funds provide for long-range planning and can supplement a charity’s annual operating budget or fund unanticipated expenses. Endowments are very important and many of the most successful charities have them.
- Provide seed or pilot project support
Seed money is earmarked specifically for funding new initiatives or special projects. These initiatives are developed by an organization to address a new need or in response to developing more efficient operations.
This document reflects insights from The Philanthropic Initiative, Inc. (TPI) and The Columbus Foundation, one of the country’s leading community foundations.