Leveraging Philanthropic Assets

The August issue of Family Giving News features a story called Beyond Grantmaking about ways that philanthropists can affect change via “creative investments of their own time, talent, resources and expertise.”

In a 1989 monograph Small Can Be Effective, the late family foundation trustee Paul Ylvisaker outlined 20 functions of philanthropic foundations and funds. Surprisingly, only a few of these functions necessarily involved money changing hands.

“Foundations do not need a lot of money to be effective,” Ylvisaker declared. “If, indeed, they were to exploit only a fraction of the strategies available to them, their individual and collective impact on American life would be vastly and beneficially expanded.”…

…An interesting exercise might be to ask Ylvisaker’s “provocative, if somewhat mischievous question: ‘Who would come to see you if you didn’t have any (or much) money?’”

More families are asking themselves these questions because:

  • Donors are giving earlier in life and bringing with them an energy and a passion for engaged, hands-on grantmaking.
  • Donors are concerned about effectiveness and utilizing all of their organization’s assets to advance their goals.
  • Donors can pursue non-grant strategies regardless of investment performance.
  • Donors are looking to involve family members and/or a new generation and may not be able to involve them in the grantmaking just yet.
  • Donors find non-grant strategies incredibly rewarding

So explore Ylvisaker’s question. If your foundation or fund wanted to help a grantee meet some need and couldn’t use any (or much) money, what would it do? Would you refer the grantee to others? Make in-kind gifts? Share your Rolodex? Collaborate with other funders? Volunteer? Which of these activities could you be doing right now? Begin without grants before adding your financial power, and you might be surprised at where your journey leads.

Almost all discussions of philanthropy focus on money. Indeed, I use the word on this blog to describe the “passionate giving of capital resources”. But money is not the only asset that can be used to further your mission. Think of the analogy of a business. Certainly, you need capital to grow the business, but it is only one input. The most dynamic, successful, high impact businesses get to be that way by leveraging all of their resources, including “creative investments of their own time, talent, resources and expertise.”