(If only, right?)
We're not always very public about our charitable pursuits, are we? We find out almost by accident that our colleague is on a local board. We rarely talk about the nonprofits we support and certainly not what we give to them.
It doesn't have to be that way. #GivingTuesday is an excellent start.
This whole thing of #GivingTuesday got me thinking. What would happen if we didn't need the holiday season to be prompted to give? What if there was a #GivingTuesday every week?
Most donors (regardless if it is a large corporation or an average Joe and Jane) approach their charitable giving somewhat like this: there's usually a personal connection with the cause, perhaps a friend or a family member asking for a donation (for a walk/bike/5K a thon, for a golf outing, for a Gala) or perhaps it is a charity that has helped you or someone you love (your alma mater, the hospice that cared for Grandma, the no-kill animal shelter where you adopted Spot). Aside from the connection to you, the donor, generally the causes don't have much of a connection to one another. Most of the time, you write a check or make an online donation, you get an acknowledgement of some sort (hopefully!), and you don't hear back from the organization on what your gift accomplished - until it's time for the next solicitation.
For corporations and foundations, the process is slightly different - although not really by much. In such cases, grantees are often required to complete standard, one-size-fits-all, boring as hell reports showing how the grant "made a difference" or "had an impact." More on that in a bit.
Those of us who are fundraisers or otherwise connected to the philanthropic world have probably heard of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High Impact Nonprofits by Leslie Crutchfield. It received a decent amount of buzz in our sector when it was published in 2007. Crutchfield's 2011 book Do More Than Give: The 6 Practices of Donors Who Change the World isn't a sequel, per se, it is "inspired" by its predecessor - meaning that, the same practices that turn nonprofits into high-impact organizations can also be used to transform individual, corporate, and foundation donors into high-impact (or catalytic) philanthropists.
Along with John Kania and Mark Kramer, Crutchfield et al suggests there's a different way (six of them, actually) for donors to make their gifts have more of a strategic impact. It starts with the common-sense suggestion of focusing on one cause. Maybe it's education or the environment. Maybe it's a health care issue. Maybe it's something that's affecting your community or a global crisis. Whatever it is, don't spread your giving around; choose a problem or an issue that matters to you. You can still give to various nonprofits focused on that particular cause, mind you, but having your efforts focused strategically on one issue will lead to the likelihood that more of an impact will be made.
As a fundraising professional, I initially bristled at such a suggestion - but quickly recovered when Crutchfield, etc. advised that foundations and corporations (and even individuals) set aside a portion of their annual giving dollars specifically for the types of requests - the personal asks, the Gala that benefits the community organization you've been supporting for years. They're not advocating that these requests and equally worthy causes get tossed into the circular file (whew!), but that they just be aligned with others in your field of focus.
Then, after you've committed to your cause, it's time to put the first practice in action: advocating for change. People often confuse advocacy with lobbying, and Crutchfield gives a concise, clear explanation of the difference and what types of activities are permissible. Blending profit with purpose, forging nonprofit peer networks, empowering the people (particularly those who stand to benefit from the changes the nonprofit is working toward), leading adaptively, and learning in order to change round out the other 5 practices.
Stories of corporations and foundations (big and small) that have done (and are doing) this kind of work successfully are plentiful in Do More Than Give. Crutchfield takes her reader through the various steps that the organizations undertook in order to impact an issue in their community or halfway across the globe. The term "catalytic philanthropy" (or "catalytic philanthropist") is used often and by the end of the book, you begin to see how different the world would be if there were more catalytic philanthropists in our midst.
Fortunately, regardless of how much money you have to give, it's easier than you think to become one.