July 28, 2011

The Top 10 Questions Posed By Philanthropists

By: The Bridgespan Group

Last week I had the privilege of conducting a workshop for about 60 philanthropic advisors. I found it illuminating to hear how the Give Smart ideas transcend typical discussions of philanthropy, which can tend to focus on "transactional" questions like "should I write checks, start a foundation or contribute to a donor-advised fund?" or "what are the tax consequences of my gift?"

While really important to get right, these transactional questions don't inspire the typical philanthropist to get engaged and demand the best results from themselves. The Give Smart questions seem to inspire a different level of conversation among families, and with their most trusted advisors. In my experience, the most effective philanthropists are typically much more passionate about getting clear on the mission or cause than the technicalities, and worry a lot about getting better over time.

Together as a group we started to discuss the top 10 frequently asked questions by philanthropists, in addition to the six core questions of the book. Here's the list we started with:

  1. Should I give anonymously or publicly?
  2. When and how should I involve my family?
  3. Should I give in perpetuity or give while I'm alive?
  4. How can I measure results in a practical way?
  5. What are the most common mistakes philanthropists make, and how can I avoid them?
  6. What non-financial resources can I bring to the table?
  7. How can I best use all of my financial resources to achieve impact? (e.g. impact investing, for-profits, etc.)
  8. What are the biggest trends in philanthropy today?
  9. How can I, as a philanthropist, influence the government (policy, funding, etc.)? What are the implications of government deficits on philanthropy?

I'm very curious to hear the most common, or most complicated questions that you ask yourselves or hear from fellow philanthropists.

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