Within the journey of becoming a donor is a philanthropic curve – here is what it looks like:
Level One – you become a donor
A complex combination of personal and religious values, family background, business and social pressures, ego, and heart-felt response to the world around you motivates you to become a donor. Giving becomes part of your way of life, your position in the community, your yearning to be a good person. Over time, giving becomes somewhat automatic, demands on you increase, and you are on many lists. Your gifts, with few exceptions, are distributed in small amounts to an increasing number of organizations. Sound familiar?
Level Two – you decide to get organized
The goal is to get control of the giving process, instead of the process controlling you. You review what you have done over the last several years, and think about what gifts have given you the most satisfaction, and what really interests you. You decide to be less reactive to requests, learn how to say no, begin to determine priorities, develop criteria, and make fewer but larger gifts.
Level Three – you become a learner
You realize that you don’t really know enough about the issues that interest you. You roll up your sleeves, do some research, visit your community foundation, talk to experts in the field and with other donors, make site visits to relevant organizations, and survey the literature. If you cannot do all this, you hire someone to do it. Out of that process comes a clearer focus, a clearer understanding of the issue, and the organizations you support reflect that focus. You have now made a distinction between the gifts you must make, and your real philanthropy.
Level Four – you become issue and results oriented
You want to maximize giving, and increase the chances of making a difference. You are more concerned with results and evaluation. You look harder at the underlying issues, and the ways your available resources can be best applied. You invest in the most talented non-profit entrepreneurs. Gifts to organizations focus on building their capacity. You have become increasingly pro-active and rather than simply responding to requests, you go out, or have someone go out, search for and fund the best people and organizations.
Level Five – your philanthropy is leveraged
You develop and fund custom designed programs that meet specific programmatic objectives. You collaborate with other donors, you establish networks that cross domains and include public-private partnerships, and collaborations with business. You attempt to create models that can be adapted, and that will attract other private and public resources. You have become increasingly competent about the issues, about what works, and about what can really make a difference.
Level Six – alignment
Your values, your passions, and your interests are aligned. Philanthropy is among the most exciting and satisfying things you do
This talk, delivered at The Philanthropic Initiative in May, 2011 raises some very interesting talking points on intentional giving. I quote broadly from the talk below the break; the general idea is that an individual's relationship with philanthropy evolves as it matures. I really like this view of philanthropy, and it aligns well with my firm's desire to help move giving minded folks along the curve to more impactful and sophisticated giving.
David R Wattenbarger, president of DRW Financial