30 lessons in pursuit of deep social impact: leveraging and creatively using resources


Leslie Pine


There’s a good chance you’ve heard the phrase ‘time, talent, and treasure’ when it comes to philanthropy. Many in the field, including us at TPI, believe that a strategic, holistic approach to philanthropy involves deploying more than just financial assets. Funders of all types – individual donors, families, foundations, companies, and others – have unique resources to influence, leverage, and use to facilitate social change. Some of the most powerful examples point to a common theme: money isn’t the only tool needed to achieve deep social impact. As part four of our ‘’30 Lessons’ blog series, we offer five ways to creatively harness the power of different resources and, in turn, increase impact.

Be creative
Philanthropic resources are modest compared to the scope of social problems. Creativity is needed to best leverage these resources. This type of creativity can take many forms, depending on the context. In our experience, it often starts with the research and learning that can help a funder identify tipping points or opportunities to accelerate momentum towards positive change.

Go beyond the money
Tap skills and talents, networks and relationships. Influence public policy. Explore communications strategies and social marketing. These are just a few examples of ways to leverage resources for long-term impact. Sometimes unlikely partners emerge, and the most effective philanthropic strategies often build in the flexibility to be opportunistic.

Go beyond traditional grantmaking
Explore ways in which impact investing can extend your efforts. Could you put more of your resources to work to support your social, environmental, or philanthropic goals? By aligning your financial assets with your values, you can unleash even more meaningful change. Impact investing can mean many things. To learn more, check out TPI’s primer, Navigating the Territory: A Guide to Impact Investing for Donors, or our national campaign to increase women’s engagement with and leadership in impact investing – Invest for Better.

Support social movements and networks
Think deeply about what is really needed to move the needle and tackle the most daunting challenges that face our world. Many of us know the public health parable about the importance of ‘going upstream’ to understand what is causing a problem. Figuring out root causes is hard work – and funders do not need to go it alone. It’s helpful to find key partners, other funders, or networks who are trying to answer these big questions, too. Leverage their learning and experience to strengthen your own.

Use all the tools in the toolbox
Look to create integrated strategies with potential to catalyze systems change, influence public policy, and lead to sustainable improvements. My colleagues and I continue to be inspired by examples of well-designed and carefully executed integrated strategies where funders tackle tough problems through a combination of financial resources, relationships, roles as leaders and influencers, ability to convene and mobilize others, and much more. Let’s keep pushing ourselves to make the most of all the resources at our disposal!

Leslie Pine is managing director at the Philanthropic Initiative

Check out the other blogs in this series:

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