In order to set clear boundaries and begin to understand how to create change with your philanthropy, dig deeply into what is happening on the ground. In philanthropy, mapping the landscape around your chosen issue is highly situation-specific, but generally includes topics like the following:
- What do I know about previous and current efforts to solve this problem ?
- What information do I have about the people I am working to help, and the places I am working in?
- What is happening that appears to be working, and why?
- What doesn’t seem to be working, and why?
- Who else is actively engaged in this issue?
- How much money do efforts like these usually require?
- What are the key trends, and where is significant change most likely to occur?
- How expensive are some of the interventions I am investigating? How broad can/should my impact be?
- How long will my support be required?
It’s likely that in addressing these questions, you’ll identify a few assumptions you’ve had that do not hold up very well in the light of day. You may also find some areas where your own experience and common sense don’t quite carry you far enough, and where you need objective data. Learning more about the issues will help inform your funding decisions and improve the odds that your philanthropy will make a real difference.
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