Creating impact that makes sense to funders


Bradley Wo


At the AVPN Conference last month, more than 1,200 funders and resource providers from across 40 countries gathered in Singapore to learn best practices to address critical impact areas. With collaboration as a central pillar for scaling strategic philanthropy, it is no surprise that engaging philanthropists was a pertinent topic at the largest social investing convening in Asia.

What support do philanthropists need?
While more affluent individuals and families are dedicating their time and wealth to philanthropy, they come with a range of experiences and engagement in the sector. Some families have long legacies of giving passed down to them from earlier generations, while others have only recently begun their giving journey. Those acting as advisors to these families must ‘meet people where they are,’ as Annie Chen, chair of the Hong Kong-based family office RS Group, emphasized during an opening plenary session to conference delegates.

Philanthropists, regardless of their level of experience in giving, want to know that their money is creating impact. Sonali Khan of Sesame Workshop India expressed caution about prioritizing outputs over impact: ‘Sometimes in our grand scheme, we forget the community. It’s not about billions, it’s about intention.’ Professionals working with philanthropists, as well as corporates and governments, face this challenge of ensuring that impact remains aligned with the funder’s intentions.

How can you ensure that philanthropists are achieving the impact they desire?
Discussions at the AVPN conference often broke the silos that organizations and individuals operate in and allowed for a variety of perspectives to be shared. In a panel led by family members active in their family offices and foundations, a professional working within a family foundation, and an impact fund manager whose major clients are family offices, a shared opinion across all panelists was the importance of finding a consensus in defining impact in a way that makes sense to philanthropists.

Both family members and professionals agreed that creating a clear structure and framework that defines family values is crucial.

This may spur necessary discussions around the different types of engagements expected of family members or identifying what the family believes their philanthropy’s impact should look like in 5 years. Through this process, family members can better understand their views from an impact lens and professionals can better coordinate their activities with the family’s philanthropic goals.

These discussions can also result in a more effective impact management approach. As families and professionals gain a more nuanced understanding of their desired outcomes and impact, they may realize that their preferred way to measure impact requires a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. For some families, this could mean understanding impact through storytelling or personally engaging with beneficiaries.

What tools are there for advisors to use to achieve this?
Each philanthropist’s approach to philanthropy and impact is very personal. However, new tools and frameworks are emerging to make impact management more rigorous and standardized. In partnership with the Impact Management Project, AVPN is advocating the use of a global consensus to measure, report, compare and improve impact performance. Be sure to stay connected to be kept updated of opportunities to manage impact.

Bradley Wo is Knowledge Associate at AVPN

The article was originally published on the AVPN blog on 16 July 2019. The original article can be viewed here.

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