philanthropy advising

SGS In The News: Make Sure Your Donation Counts

This month, our CEO, Kate Azar, was quoted in an article about making sure your donation to a charity counts. The article, which focuses on National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, points out that those cute pink ribbons and pink products you see all around are not regulated. Meaning that anyone can use them. So, donor beware! Just because your favorite product - or your favorite football team - is pink this month, doesn't mean they are giving money to a good cause. 

So how do you make sure your donated dollars are going where you intend? Here's a few tips:

Do your research -- You'd be surprised how many people don't even look at a nonprofit or charity's website before giving money. Whether you are giving $10 or $100,000, it's important to know how your donation is being used. 

Also, there are roughly 1.5 million nonprofits in the US alone - many of which work to fight breast cancer. Researching at least a few national charities and some local organizations should be standard practice.  A good nonprofit website will tell you the impact that the organization has made in the past, or at least their goals for this fundraising campaign.  It is also much more rewarding to find a charity that speaks to you, your values and your interests. With a little research, you can better understand the impact your contribution has made to the cause. 

Start a donor circle -- No donation is too small to make a difference (ask President Obama's Presidential fundraising team), but if you gather your friends, family or coworkers to pool together funds for a larger gift, you can make a bigger impact. Giving circles are a popular tool for smaller donors to make bigger contributions to a cause.  And the charitable recipient will be grateful for your initiative. Many nonprofit fundraising teams are stretched thin, so it's impossible to have a personal relationship with each donor, but when you gather a circle of community members and boost your donation, you're more likely to receive feedback from the nonprofit and have more influence in how your gift is used. 

Consider hiring a philanthropy advisor -- If you're making a single, small direct gift, a philanthropy advisor might not be for your. But if you are engaged in annual giving, donating a large cash gift or are interested in donating any non-cash gifts such as property or stocks, a philanthropic advisor can really help you find the right cause, explore options for giving your time, talent and treasure, and broker a long-term relationship that will benefit both the donor and the charity. 

So tell us, how do you track your contributions? Tweet @sgstrategies

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. 

Need & Affluence in Orange County

The Chronicle of Philanthropy (CoP) published new data highlighting the mismatch between affluence and need nationwide. The data, based on CoP's How America Gives study, compares giving behavior with quality-of-life measurements in more than 2,700 counties across the U.S.  Past studies have shown that those with lower income give more per dollar -- according to CoP's data, households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6% of their discretionary income to charity, whereas those who make $100,000 or more only give about 4.2% (though, we should note that the total amount people in wealthy areas give is often larger than the amount given by those who live in less affluent counties.)  Indeed, CoP's latest data shows that residents in more affluent areas (those with higher standards of living, low poverty and low crime) give less to charity than those in less affluent areas.

Orange County follows suit with this trend. In CoP's interactive map, one can see that Orange County's opportunity index (a measure of economic well-being) is well above average (57.5%) whereas its giving ratio is at the bottom (only 2.8%). 

To articulate this in a more tangible manner, in April, the Orange County Register published an article stating that, while Orange County is well known for its affluence, 1 in 4 residents live in poverty - that's a stunning 24.3% of residents, giving the OC one of the highest poverty rates in the state. 

This data makes clear people in wealthy communities are missing opportunities to make a positive impact in not only their neighbors' lives, but that of their county as a whole.   With government funding for affordable housing and other social services being drastically cut, philanthropy must pick up the slack. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. More philanthropic investments could lower crime, poverty and the need for tax funded social services across the county. 

So why don't more affluent OC residents give to charity?  From the same CoP article

"When it comes to volunteering, if it’s hard to find an organization to volunteer with, you might not do as much. When it comes to donating money, I think probably the same factors are taking place."

As an advisor, I often hear the same grievances from my clients.  In fact, there is a common adage about how hard it can be to give money away responsibly and effectively.  Consider that there are an estimated 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. alone.  Also, consider the latest news of some of our nation's most treasured and well-established nonprofits and the scandals of mismanagement (see Pro Publica's groundbreaking story on the Red Cross's failures in Haiti).  It's no wonder donors are unclear about where to give their time, talent and treasure.  It's not an easy landscape to navigate. 

Another problem may likely be that those in affluent communities are unaware of the plight of their neighbors, whereas lower income residents identify with the challenges facing the less fortunate in their community and are therefore more likely to give. "Social capital and neighborly empathy are sometimes missing in wealthy counties, where a veneer of affluence may mask struggling residents and persuade people there’s no need to donate to social-service organizations."  

This is where we see the role of philanthropic advisors can add value in boosting the overall culture of philanthropic giving.  We research and map out the landscape of social issues, identifying the core issues, theories of change, and key stakeholders.  Then we work with our clients to make sound philanthropic investments based on this research. 

We know that when donors feel confident about where their charitable gifts are going, when they have well-informed advisors for their philanthropic investments (just as they do for their other financial investments), they are more likely to give more to the causes that truly need it. Social Good Strategies, LLC is committed to growing that culture of philanthropy in Orange County and beyond. 



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

In Honor of Mothers

Mother’s Day: It’s a day to show your appreciation for the woman who raised you.. or to thank the mother of your children. (Seriously guys, if you’re not getting your wife a Mother’s Day gift, you should be. You’ll thank me for this marriage tip — “Happy wife, happy life,” etc.)  

Every year, I am reminded of all that my mother did for me.  She truly made me the woman I am today.  She taught me the value of hard work, independence and education. Being an entrepreneur can be challenging. My mother talks me through the hard days, boosts my confidence when I need it and gives me valuable advice.  She serves as my sounding board, a trusted advisor and my most supportive friend.  She continues to teach me patience and determination.  Most of all, she instilled in me a passion for philanthropy and charity.  Mothers have the hardest and most important job in the world—raising children.  That’s why, in addition to treating my beautiful mother and grandmother to brunch, I like to support family-focused causes in order to honor and support mothers around the world.  Some of my favorites: 

  • National Charity League fosters mother-daughter relationship building through philanthropy and community service. What a great thing to do after that Mother’s Day brunch!  
  • focuses on mother and family related economic security issues such as paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable childcare and childhood nutrition.
  • Healthy Child Healthy World creates educational resources for parents and caregivers so they can make informed decisions to protect the health and development of their children. 
  • Human Options is an Orange County based charity that helps abused women, their children and families rebuild their lives. They work with the community to break the cycle of domestic violence. 
  • Kiva allows people to lend money to low-income and underserved entrepreneurs to start businesses and support their families. You can even buy your Mom a Kiva gift card so she can choose a woman to lend to. I love giving this gift to the person who has everything. 
  • Every Mother Counts supports maternal health programs making pregnancy and childbirth safe for mothers around the world. 

Americans will spend $21.2 billion on Mother’s Day gifts this year. While Mama certainly deserves to be showered with love and appreciation, imagine how less fortunate mothers around the world could be served with just a portion of these funds. 

So tell me, how do you honor your mom, grandmother or other motherly figures in your life on Mother’s Day?  What do you think about including philanthropy in your holiday?  I bet Mom would be proud! 

“What’s Possible” at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit

Just as I wrap up my work at RALLY, my client Lyn Lear launches her climate film "What's Possible" at the United Nations Climate Summit. It was such a pleasure to work with the Lear's while I was at RALLY. They are so passionate about using their networks and influence to create a better world. I've had the pleasure of managing press outreach at a People for the American Way Foundation, founded by Norman Lear, Spirit of Liberty Awards event and then I had the great opportunity to help Lyn Davis Lear develop partnerships and a rollout for her latest film. Watch Lyn's inspirational film and learn how you can take part at

With people like the Lear's and the thousands of people who stand for climate action (see the People's Climate March), I am reminded of what's possible with the power of passionate people.