If you are a seasoned donor, donor advised fund (DAF) holder, foundation trustee, or staff of such an organization, you may reach a point where you feel there is potential to achieve an even greater vision, to wield more leverage, to catalyze deeper change. Here at The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), and in talking with grantmaking membership organization Exponent Philanthropy, we realized that we often field these kinds of how-to inquiries. To assist funders of all types, we decided to work with Exponent Philanthropy to create a free toolkit, Ramping Up for High-Impact Philanthropy, for seasoned funders who are hoping to take an existing philanthropic program to a higher level. The toolkit builds on our 2016 publication, Ramping Up Your Foundation, which helps foundations thoughtfully and responsibly plan for a significant increase in giving and/or adjust to a sudden infusion of assets. If you’ve read that and thought, okay, what’s next?, Ramping Up for High-Impact Philanthropy is your answer.
This new publication provides hands-on tools including a diagnostic assessment for funders to use to assess their own situation, descriptions of practical strategies other funders have used to overcome similar obstacles, and case studies that highlight the stories of three different funders. In the coming months, we will offer a series of blog posts that will build off of this practical tool and provide concrete examples of how funders have approached and worked their way through each stage presented in the toolkit. The blog series will delve into the five stages along the journey to high-impact philanthropy. Readers will learn about the different challenges funders can face in the process of ramping up for high impact, with stories on:
Dynamics and Readiness. One stage focuses on assessing how motivated and prepared you are to actually begin to ramp up your impact. This section emphasizes the importance of moving as a single, unified force to achieve strategic goals. The first part of the toolkit reviews issues such as the level of engagement among leadership, the dynamics among decision-makers so that forward motion is truly possible, and agreement on shared purpose.
Planning and Focus. Another stage builds upon that shared purpose with focus on what is most needed and why. Part of this process may involve re-examining prior giving, and making decisions on whether shifts need to be made – and how to make them in as positive and supportive a way as possible. With those in place, an organization can then set bigger, measurable goals in a strategic way.
Capacity and Implementation. With “what is possible” more clearly defined, funders need to consider whether goals are achievable with available resources. Staffing models, acquiring issues expertise, and tactics to manage and benchmark strategies are among the elements that can present obstacles to ramping up.
Context and Collaboration. Funders do not need to go it alone. There are ways to identify partners and create synergies that will propel a funder toward its goals. Simultaneously, funders may be able to help grantees strengthen their organizational capacity and enhance effectiveness. A third undertaking at this stage may revolve around public policy issues and how funders can best extend the reach of philanthropy by influencing policy.
Learning and Adaptation. Finally, the publication offers tools to help funders enhance their learning and evaluation efforts, and incorporate adaptations to their strategies that build on what is learned.
By highlighting these obstacles, offering success stories, and providing tools so funders can assess and monitor their paths while ramping up, one of our goals for Ramping Up for High-Impact Philanthropy is to tackle a key challenge every seasoned funder we’ve met has faced: “Knowing what you don’t know”. Those who are serious about ramping up their philanthropy for greater impact recognize that this work is far-reaching, multi-dimensional, and difficult to measure. As we learn what we don’t know, new avenues of exploration open up, greater possibilities arise, the process itself can be rewarding, and funders can begin to see the incredible change created by a strategic philanthropy program.