What would you do if you had unlimited funds to donate to charity? Would you focus on causes and organizations that make a difference locally or donate to international organizations? Are your donations providing immediate relief to those most in need or do they encourage long-term investment in the arts or sciences?
Even if you don't have unlimited funds to donate to charity, by engaging in strategic philanthropy, you'll ensure that every charitable dollar is going to its highest and best use. Here we discuss what strategic philanthropy may mean for you and three guidelines you can use to develop your giving strategy.
What is Strategic Philanthropy?
As the name implies, strategic philanthropy takes the randomness out of your charitable donations. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of donation requests you receive, or if you feel as though your donations are so scattered across organizations and topics that their impact isn't being maximized, strategic philanthropy can present one answer.
To be truly effective in your charitable giving, you'll need to develop a plan to optimize the impact of each donation. A philanthropic strategy can evolve over time, shifting toward what's most important to you at each stage of your life. By defining a clear focus for your charitable giving, you'll be better able to decline donation requests that don't fit into your strategy.
These three steps can help you get started on a philanthropic strategy that's perfectly tailored to you.
#1: Design Your Mission Statement
This mission statement will help you decide where to focus your strategy, and should be closely tied to your charitable objectives. These statements generally use terms like "support," "fund," "protect," "educate," and "empower." For example:
- My mission is to support charities that focus on improving female graduation rates by providing direct support for girls and women to stay in school.
- My mission is to provide scholarships for underprivileged young people who want to pursue a scientific or medical education.
- My mission is to help fund the supplies to support a trap-neuter-release program for feral cats.
Your mission statement should serve as a guidepost for the next steps—determining your objectives and selecting your charitable causes.
#2: Decide Your Objectives
Part of developing your mission statement also involves determining your goals and objectives. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What issues in your community concern you?
- What motivates you?
- What are you most passionate about?
- What do you think is the most pressing crisis facing your community?
- Do you want to impact a specific area?
- If you could volunteer for any cause, what would it be?
#3: Choose Your Charitable Causes
Once you've selected objectives and have a solid mission statement, next comes the fun part: choosing charitable causes that further your mission and fulfill your objectives. There are a number of websites, including Charity Navigator, that can help you evaluate the nuts and bolts of any organization you're interested in contributing to.
By following this guide, you can help take the guesswork out of your charitable contributions and maximize the impact of each dollar you contribute.