High impact philanthropy: four tips to maximize your giving.

Author:Cote-Ackah, Carra

You cannot be engaged in any philanthropic activity without hearing the buzzword, "impact." Everyone wants it, but what exactly is it, and how do individual and corporate donors actually achieve it?

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania helps donors answer these questions. Its multidisciplinary team provides public guidance, educational programs, and advice on the best strategies for achieving social impact, which the center defines as "a meaningful improvement in the lives of the people and communities you seek to help."

Impact can vary by issue, geography, and population. It can mean improving child health, alleviating poverty, increasing educational opportunities, or ensuring clean water. But no matter what impact you target with your philanthropic activities, here are four tips from the Center's team on how to maximize the impact of your giving.


There is a saying: "If you don't know where you're headed, then any road will take you there." In philanthropy, the path to high impact begins with clarity about your philanthropic goal. If you are successful, what is the positive change in the world? Fewer children dying before their first birthday from known, treatable preventable diseases? More poor families with a clear ladder out of poverty? All children having access to a quality education and a brighter future? These are all worthy and important social impact goals. However, too often, funders engage in philanthropic efforts without clarity on what they are trying to achieve. As a result, they can miss opportunities to leverage others' efforts, overlook promising programs, or recognize too late that they've been supporting organizations that aren't directly or effectively working towards the problems that matter.


Philanthropic conversations--and public attention--often focus on how much a funder gives. High impact philanthropy is not about how much money you give, but about how much good you create. Whether you have $1,000, $1 million, or $1 billion to spend, the question to ask is, "What is the philanthropic bang for the buck?" Here, the 'bang' is the impact achieved, and the 'buck' is whatever resources you have. Forty dollars to save a child's life. Ninety dollars per year to increase a farmer's productivity and improve environmental sustainability. Two thousand dollars to move a woman from extreme poverty to increased economic security. These are just a few...

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