I’ve now finished laying out the four core approaches to philanthropy:
- The Charitable Giver
- The Philanthropic Investor
- The Strategic Philanthropist
- The Social Entrepreneur (I need to change this label, see here and here, what label do you think I should use?)
Since I’ve often debated the effectiveness of Strategic Philanthropy vs. Philanthropic Investment with Paul Brest, I was pleased that Paul commented on my post describing Strategic Philanthropy and gave his general approval of my definition.
One of the reasons that I’ve been sketching out these approaches is because over the past few years I’ve become concerned that the term “strategic philanthropy” has come to be used as synonym for “effective philanthropy”. I’ve been involved with a number of field building groups seeking to advance donors’ understanding of how to engage in effective philanthropy and too often the groups start by defining “effective philanthropy” using the tenets of Strategic Philanthropy.
What I’d like to argue is that donors can be highly effective deploying any of the four core approaches above. Charitable Givers are not inferior to Strategic Philanthropists, they are executing an entirely different activity with different goals and different requirements to be effective. The same is true of Philanthropic Investors and Social Entrepreneurs. These approaches are dependent on each other for each of them to be effective themselves.
When we advance Strategic Philanthropy as the preferred approach to philanthropy, we inadvertently undermine the potential future success of Strategic Philanthropists. In order to engineer social impact, Strategic Philanthropy requires high performing, high impact nonprofits (Social Entrepreneurs) to partner with. These organizations in turn need Charitable Givers to pay for the bulk of their program execution and they need Philanthropic Investors to provide the capital they need to grow and improve their organizations.
If we can agree that these four approaches accurately describe the ecosystem of philanthropy, then we can begin to talk not just about how to engage in effective philanthropy but to more precisely discuss how each approach can be deployed effectively.
These sorts of distinctions are important as philanthropy becomes more and more of a mainstream topic and as we attempt to make our entire field more effective.