September 27, 2012

How to Make Your Philanthropy More Effective Starting Today

By: The Bridgespan Group
Am I getting better? It's a crucial question to ask yourself.

Learning and adapting is one key way to keep your philanthropy compass pointing towards excellence. And since there are few forces for accountability in philanthropy—no shareholders or voters to respond to—excellence in philanthropy must be self-imposed. Doing what it takes to really learn and improve over time requires a deep personal commitment and plenty of hard work.

If you've only recently decided to become more strategic with your philanthropy, you may think it seems a bit premature to focus on results. But the truth is that results-oriented philanthropy incorporates learning and improvement at every stage. So how can you start?

First, recognize that you are embarking on a journey that will likely have a number of phases to it. (For more on how to start small, learn, and adapt over time, see our guide “Your Philanthropic Journey.”)

At each stage, you will want to identify what you’re expecting to happen as a result of your philanthropy. What exactly is your role in this change? With a stake in the ground, it’s easier to identify whether you hit the bar you set. If you did, great; if not, ask, why not? What can I do differently next time? (For more on the process on continuous improvement in philanthropy, read "Am I Getting Better?")

Finally, though the decisions you made at the outset about structure, family, and legacy were important to ground the first stages of your new approach to philanthropy, they need not be set in stone. Reflect on the questions you asked when you first got started with our "Finding Your Philanthropy Compass" series (see below for all posts).
  • Have the exercises we offered changed the way you think about involving your family?
  • Will your initial structure be sufficient to accomplish all of your goals?
  • Are your initial assumptions about giving while living or giving in perpetuity still valid after going through this process?
Consult your compass, and take a moment to decide whether there’s an opportunity to refine these initial decisions.

In addition, you may wish to use our Giving Checklist, which contains helpful markers for your philanthropic journey and can help you achieve more with your philanthropy.

This is the last post in our series on "Finding Your Philanthropy Compass." In case you missed a week, see below for the full list of posts in this series.

"Finding Your Philanthropy Compass" Series

We invite you to tell us what you think by commenting below or with #PhilanthropyCompass on Twitter. You can follow Give Smart updates at @BridgespanGroup.

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