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Navigating the Path of Philanthropy: Questions to Ask Before Taking the Plunge.

As a philanthropy consultant, I often find myself engaged in deep discussions about giving back to society. Many of my clients aspire to make a meaningful impact through philanthropy, leveraging their resources and networks for the greater good.


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However, embarking on this journey requires thoughtful consideration and good dose of introspection. Before diving into philanthropy, there are several crucial questions that every prospective philanthropist should ask themselves. Here are some insights to guide you on this transformative path:

1. What is my motivation for getting involved in philanthropy?

Before delving into philanthropy, it's essential to understand your underlying motivations. Are you driven by a desire to give back to society, to address pressing social issues, bring your family together and/or leave a lasting legacy? Perhaps you've been inspired by personal events experienced by your family or close friends. Clarifying your motivations will help you establish a clear sense of purpose and direction in your philanthropic endeavours.

2. What are my core values and passions?

It’s equally essential to reflect on your personal values and passions. What causes resonate with you on a profound level? What brings you joy, makes you boil with frustration, or brings you to tears? Today there are so many causes that need support; the environment, women's rights, education, mental health, children/youth, handicap & accessibility, inclusion, LGBTQ+, social justice to name but a few. Identifying your core priorities will help you align your philanthropic efforts with causes that truly matter to you and your family.

3. What resources am I willing to commit and who will be involved?

Philanthropy involves more than just writing checks; it requires a commitment of time, expertise, and resources. Before diving in, assess what resources you and all those involved in the project are willing and able to allocate towards your philanthropic efforts. This includes financial contributions, but also access to your networks, skills, and spheres of influence.

Also, who will be involved? Is it just you and your children (or parents as the case may if you’re a young founder), or will you want to bring in your wider family such as brothers, sisters, cousins etc.? Being clear about your capacity to give (the how AND the how much) will help you set realistic goals and maximize the effectiveness of your donations.

4. What does my philanthropy look like? What vehicles will I use?

Philanthropy encompasses a broad spectrum of approaches, from grantmaking to impact investing, along with advocacy, and hands-on volunteering. Reflect on the ways in which you envision engaging with civil society organisations and the not-for-profit sector. Will you establish a private foundation or fonds de dotation, or support existing nonprofit organisations via direct donations? Do you want to operate programs or support structures that do? Understanding your preferred approach will guide your philanthropic strategy and the decision-making process.

5. What impact do I hope to achieve?

Clarifying your philanthropic goals is vital for crafting a meaningful and effective giving strategy. Consider the specific outcomes you wish to accomplish; do you want to respond to immediate needs (alleviating hunger, providing immediate access to employment or housing), or drive a longer-term systemic change? Articulating your desired impact (your theory of change) will guide your decision-making process and ensure that your resources are directed towards initiatives that can make a real difference.

6. How do I plan to measure success?

Accountability and transparency are essential principles in effective philanthropy. Define clear metrics for evaluating the success of your philanthropic initiatives. They should include quantifiable outcomes, such as the number of lives impacted or policy changes enacted, AND qualitative measures, such as beneficiaries’ stories of transformation and empowerment. Establishing benchmarks for success will guide your strategy, decision-making and ensure accountability to stakeholders.

7. How do I intend to collaborate and leverage partnerships?

Philanthropy is most impactful when approached collaboratively. Consider how you can leverage partnerships with other donors, nonprofits, government agencies, and community stakeholders to amplify your impact. Engaging in strategic collaborations allows you to pool resources, share expertise, and tackle complex challenges more effectively than working alone.

8. What is the life cycle of my philanthropy and what legacy do I hope to leave?

Philanthropy is a powerful vehicle for shaping your legacy and leaving a lasting impact on the world. What imprint do you hope to leave on future generations? Do you want your children, grandchildren and further future generations to take over, or will your goal be to spend down your endowment? Do you want to ensure your actions are publicly visible, or do you prefer to work behind the scenes?  These are important questions to answer before you begin.


Becoming a philanthropist is a deeply personal and transformative journey that requires careful reflection, strategic planning, and a genuine commitment to making a difference.

Getting answers to these fundamental questions and engaging in meaningful dialogue with your family can sometimes be difficult. An experienced philanthropy consultant can help you see the trees AND the forest, so you can embark on your philanthropic journey with clarity, purpose, and impact.


If you have questions or want to delve deeper into your own philanthropic ambitions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


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