Day 30: Ask yourself: What practices will I take away from the #30DayDonorChallenge? #GiveSmart

Throughout this journey, we have tried to offer simple, practical ways to keep great philanthropy top of mind. Our challenge has touched on many themes—connecting with others, increasing the impact of your dollars, and continuously improving (just to name a few). We thank our friends and partners for contributing to this effort, as well as for sharing the challenge with others in their networks.

For a full history of #30DayDonorChallenge, please see our archive.

Day 29: Ask yourself: How can I improve my philanthropy over time? #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

A success-driven philanthropist wants to understand results and how to maximize them. Yet, given the complex problems philanthropy tackles, results are rarely black and white. So instead of focusing energy on proving your work makes a difference, focus on how you can improve over time. Find ways to gather candid feedback about how you can better contribute to your grantees’ success and deploy your other assets (relationships, expertise) to further impact.

How have you gathered feedback to learn and improve? For more thoughts on the topic, check out our article Getting Better Over Time.

Day 28: Get specific: Articulate exactly what you want your philanthropy to accomplish. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

When asked “what are you trying to accomplish?” do you respond with broad, hopeful statements (like “curing cancer,” or “ending poverty,” or “stopping global warming”)? If so, you’ll need to get more specific because at that level, your goals are still too undefined (and therefore unattainable).

Don’t assume that a $10 million gift over five years, for example, will single-handedly transform an inner-city school district with an $800 million annual budget. This is one of the many “traps” that even the most capable and experienced philanthropists can fall into.

For an overview of common traps, check out our FAQ What Are the Five Most Common Traps I Should Avoid in My Philanthropy?


Day 27: Share with another donor or grantee a philanthropy mistake you’ve made. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

In philanthropy as in most other areas of life, individuals and organizations tend to learn from two distinctly different experiences: what works well, and what does not work so well. Failure, in fact, is often a better teacher than success. Yet most philanthropists find it discomforting to acknowledge mistakes to others, especially if it may inadvertently implicate their grantees. It’s important to realize that other funders are struggling through similar decisions.

Help them make the most of their dollars by sharing your mistakes (and what you’ve learned from them). For more information on this topic, check out the Philanthropy Roundtable article by Peter Frumkin, Failure in Philanthropy: Toward a New Appreciation.

Day 26: Put yourself in a grantee's shoes: Simulate the experience of working with you. #30DayDonorChallenge #GiveSmart

How clear is your grantmaking process to those outside your foundation? By walking a mile in your grantees’ shoes, you’ll get an up-close look at your foundation’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. For example, if you viewed your website from a grantee’s perspective, is it clear what types of initiatives you do and do not fund? If you accept unsolicited proposal requests, is the procedure to apply for a grant clear?

Check out Project Streamline for suggestions on how to improve grant application and reporting practices.