Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. For those of you who haven’t heard of Giving Tuesday or are still in a tryptophan-induced haze, it is a movement that launched in 2012 as the philanthropic counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It encourages individuals and families, for-profit and non-profit organizations nationwide to celebrate their philanthropic goals and achievements through a variety of channels – saturating the digital landscape with good. The motives and messages behind Giving Tuesday are encouraging, uplifting and especially relevant during this time of year.
While tomorrow is a wonderful opportunity to give, promote charitable efforts and bring attention to the field of philanthropy, we at The Philanthropic Initiative think it’s important to remember that need occurs year-round and cannot be addressed in a single day. Nevertheless, Giving Tuesday should be celebrated. We suggest you use the day as a chance to reflect on your giving and develop a larger strategy for your philanthropic efforts throughout the year. Below are some lessons that we have learned in helping our clients maximize the impact of their philanthropy and we hope they help you consider how to make your giving more effective and fulfilling.
Think big, but find your focus. Change requires many incremental steps – and one bold vision. Be a practical idealist who is both patient and restless. Vision inspires and aspirational goals guide action, but short-term successes keep you in the game. Focus allows you to understand how and with whom you can make a difference – and gives you the discipline to do it.
Listen closely and read between the lines. Seek input from the community, nonprofit and public leaders and a range of experts. Incorporate additional research and data and use it all to shape your strategies.
Be creative and customize. Philanthropic resources are modest compared to the scope of social problems. Creativity is needed to best leverage these resources, and solutions should be custom-tailored to local needs, culture, and other unique conditions.
Invest in people. Find the best people to support, those who are highly committed and possess strong leadership skills, then work in close partnership with them. Take informed leaps of faith on promising individuals and give them a chance to create real change. And don’t be afraid to explore the intersections between philanthropy, government and business to build a synergistic and driven team for your cause.
Go beyond traditional grant making and use more than money. Tap skills and talents, networks and relationships. Influence public policy. Explore communications strategies and social marketing.
Be strategic, opportunistic and don’t reinvent the wheel. The path is rarely linear. Map your plan, but be open to lessons learned and changing conditions along the way. Don’t expect to end up in the place you originally planned, and use the advice and experience of others to get there.
Don’t be discouraged by limited resources. Small grants, when targeted in highly strategic ways, can have great impact. Funders of all sizes can make a difference.
Evaluate, reflect and plan for the future. Be sure to step back every few years to look at what is being accomplished and whether there are smarter ways to work or better paths to follow.
Share and learn from successes – and failures. There remains much to be learned about social change. Become a leader and a role model and strengthen the field by sharing lessons learned including successes and setbacks. Practice open source philanthropy.
And finally, have fun. Always remember why you started giving in the first place. Stay connected to your philanthropy and enjoy it.