Family philanthropy truly has the power to produce wonders. It can transform family members and the communities they serve, sometimes with an impact that lasts generations. However, achieving a positive, enduring impact requires purposeful decision making throughout the lifespan of the family’s philanthropic work. We are here to help.
This series of guides and activities will prompt you to reflect on important questions and build a plan for effective and meaningful family philanthropy. We’ll help you define and pursue your purpose, establish thoughtful policies and practices, and, ultimately, make a positive impact.
This video will address the four elements of philanthropic purpose. We recommend downloading the guide to get a deeper dive into each element, including activities and questions to spark your thinking.
Your philanthropic purpose is your why. Clarifying your philanthropic purpose helps guide your decision-making. Some common elements of purpose are motivations, values or principles, priorities, and giving styles.
What are motivations? They’re the underlying reasons we act in a certain way. We find some motivations in our hearts and lived experiences, and others in reaction to needs in the world. There are no right or wrong motivations and we may find that they evolve over time.
Philanthropy is a deliberate choice and motivation gives language to that choice. When you know your motivation, it provides the inner clarity you need to overcome obstacles. And if you can express your primary motivations to your family and advisors, they’ll be better prepared to help you implement your philanthropic plans.
Here are some common philanthropic motivations that may resonate with you as you begin to articulate your own. Social consciousness, family traditions and legacy, mentors and heroines, personal interests and experiences, faith and spirituality, community and social connections, business skills and experiences, compelling needs and impact.
Your values are the characteristics that shape your behavior and decision-making. Principles are your moral compass. They help us know right from wrong. They take the form of statements and often reflect our values. Acting in alignment with your values and principles gives you purpose as an individual and as a family.
Creating a list of shared values or a statement of principles gives a common reference point for making decisions about everything from creating grant-making programs to involving future generations or community experts in your philanthropy.
Your values also inform your philanthropic priorities. Philanthropic priorities are the populations, places, or issues where you most want to make a difference. They add a where, who, or what to the why you identified in your motivation and values. Effective philanthropists identify a short list of priorities. When you’re clear about your priorities, it makes it easier to say no to requests that fall outside of those priorities. It may seem hard to articulate your priorities at first, but even a draft list will help you allocate your time, talent and financial resources. You can always change it later.
Finally, your giving style is how you prefer to make a difference. It’s a combination of where you want to give and how you want to give. Examples of giving styles are relief, improvement, reform, engagement, and innovation. None of the approaches are more important or effective. They each fit a different need.
Understanding your philanthropic purpose gives you a clearer path to meaningful, effective giving. To learn more and download our guide to support your family’s philanthropy efforts, visit our website.