Strategic Philanthropy

SGS CEO Featured on ESPN Radio's Real Talk San Diego

Social Good Strategies CEO Kate Azar was featured on ESPN Radio's Real Talk San Diego to discuss her work advising successful and corporate clients on their philanthropy. If you missed the live broadcast, you can listen to it here. 

"Real Talk" features community business leaders and entrepreneurs sharing their insights and opinions on business, finance, real estate, political and lifestyle related topics that impact our communities. 

What Is A Philanthropic Advisor

I often find myself explaining what a philanthropic advisor does. People are always interested in the job, much for the same reason I love my work.  After all, I get to help people change the world! While the philanthropic advising industry is not new, there aren't many people offering these types of services.  In the US, there are more than 260,000 financial advisors available to help people make sounds financial investments, but there are fewer than 1,000 professionals available to help the public make wise philanthropic donations.  That number is astonishing given that there are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the US alone.  So, what does a philanthropic advisor do?

Many of us have financial planners, investment or wealth advisors to guide us in our financial investments. Similarly, a philanthropic advisor helps you define your values and dreams for the world and build a philanthropic strategy for accomplishing those goals.  At Social Good Strategies, we help you decide where your philanthropic investments should be made to create the intended impact. Together, we identify your values, draft a mission statement, and get clear on what success looks like to you. Then we help you identify philanthropic opportunities that align with your goals and values. We make sure you have the information you need to make sound philanthropic investment decisions and track your results. 

Certainly, a philanthropic advisor isn't for everyone but philanthropic strategy should be. Whether you are giving away $1 thousand or $1 million, you should be thoughtful about the impact your money makes. A philanthropic advisor can help you be more effective in your giving. Read more about the services we offer here

 

Strategic vs. Checkbook Philanthropy

What is Strategic Philanthropy?

Many people ask me what I mean when I talk about "strategic philanthropy."  There are many varying definitions for the term, including a common association with corporate philanthropy. But when it comes to personal or family philanthropy, being strategic with your philanthropic planning means to do so with design and planning backed by research, specific and measurable goals, indicators of success, all to have a measurable impact. 

I often contrast the concept with what we call "checkbook philanthropy," wherein one gives to causes ad hoc with little further communication or follow up on the part of donor or the nonprofit recipient.  Most of us give small amounts (or maybe large amounts) here and there when a friend or charity makes an appeal. An example of this would be to buy a chocolate bar from a kid outside the grocery store to support his baseball team, sending $20 in response to a charity mailing, or donating to a friend's charity walk. There is nothing wrong with this type of giving, every little bit helps (see President Obama's fundraising campaign!) but this type of giving probably won't be as transformative as one or two larger planned gifts.  Also, this type of giving can often leave a donor feeling unsatisfied as we are left with little feedback as to how our contribution really impacted the cause.  

Another fun phrase in the philanthropist's lexicon is "drive-by philanthropy," a term I borrowed from Attorney John Fraker and his podcast Family Philanthropy Radio.  He describes "drive by philanthropy" as a situation in which a family foundation or donor gives to so many causes that they are really not able to be truly engaged with any cause. 

Charity is just writing checks and not being engaged. Philanthropy, to me, is being engaged, not only with your resources but getting people and yourself really involved and doing things that haven’t been done before.
— Eli Broad

Often, I advise my clients to pick 2-3 causes to engage, as opposed to many, allowing them to make a more significant impact in these issue areas by really delving into the issue and getting to know the cause, and its stakeholders well.  I help my clients find a handful of causes that are important to them.  Together, we explore theories of change and action.  We come up with a personal mission and find partners, nonprofits and charities that align.  We really listen to the players and other important stakeholders and explore how we can best make an impact.  We ask nonprofits and charities what they really need and how our client's time, talent and treasure can be most helpful. We track the results of our client's giving, and tell the story of how their contributions made a difference.  Then we plan for the next year based on what we've learned -- what worked, and what didn't.  This is one of the benefits of strategic philanthropy and, in my opinion, the most effective philanthropy. 

Another benefit of having an annual philanthropic plan, when you get those "drive-by" requests (the ones that you give to out of guilt, rather than genuine interest), you can politely decline, explaining that you already have all your charitable funds committed for this year but you'd be happy to consider the request next year.  Then we can explore whether the cause fits in your personal charitable mission. 

Learn more about how we build a sound philanthropic strategy here