It Takes a Team
High impact philanthropy requires a team consisting of a donor’s financial, tax and legal advisors as well as experts in the field of philanthropy. Each plays a role in helping a donor to articulate his or her objectives and structure. Churchill could have been referring to philanthropy when he said; “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”
A donor’s attention to giving should not end with the mechanics of the transactional process. The new mindset of a high-impact donor, like an investor, determines success by the return or measurable outcomes achieved through his or her efforts. A team of advisors that can address the entire process provides the foundation upon which a donor will transform good intentions into measurable results.
Arguably one positive result of our nation’s recent economic turmoil is it now has created an atmosphere where donors are forced to be much more deliberate in their charitable giving. You can see it in the response to the disaster in Haiti; along with news and reports, there was an unprecedented amount of attention being paid to “how” one should consider donating to the relief effort.
However, good intentions are one thing and implementation is quite another. Clients who want to increase the impact of their philanthropy may initially focus on choosing the appropriate structure: whether a private foundation, a specific trust instrument, or a donor advised fund, all are critical decisions that require expertise and precede and facilitate effective philanthropy. But once addressed, a committed philanthropist must then move beyond the vehicles to address the use of the funds.
True fulfillment in philanthropy necessarily takes into account the results, and there are many aspects to consider. One is a generational issue: younger generations are less comfortable with simply handing their charitable donations over to a venerable charity that will make the decisions of dispersal for them; they want a more involved experience. Add to that shrinking assets, and an increasing number of individuals and families have found themselves asking, perhaps for the first time, the pivotal question in philanthropy, “How can I achieve the most impact through my donations?” This timely introspection is also peaking at the same time nonprofits across the nation are facing heightening demand and decreasing resources. Simply put, donors and nonprofits want and need to achieve more with every charitable dollar.
Initially, the concept of a “philanthropic investment” approach begins with a specialized advisor who can work right along side your existing team of financial advisors; professionals who have developed expertise in philanthropic giving equal to the legal, tax, and financial advice you depend upon. A philanthropic advisor does not replace but supplements the financial structures and vehicles you have created. They guide the discussion to identify your charitable objectives and vision, and then help design effective strategies based on causes and issues of importance to you and your family, as well as projected giving amounts.
Operation Kids Foundation then takes this process to the next step, acting as an advisor who manages the dispersal of the gift, its use and ultimate return – finding ways to leverage the donation, and increase its overall impact. Part of this managed process is holding recipient organizations and programs more accountable for quantifiable results that are reported back to the donor. Typically, nonprofit performance is also elevated along the way.
Managing philanthropic gifts should embrace the principles of sound financial management while expecting to change communities and improve lives. It is an investment in the most important enterprise we have: humanity. Why not demand more?