As a strategic philanthropy advising practice working with donors to increase the impact of their philanthropy, we talk a lot about the word ‘strategy’. But what does strategy really mean? Beyond that, what does putting strategy into practice look like?
Over the years, we’ve learned key lessons on strategy from the families, companies, foundations, and individual donors we work with. These lessons can be valuable to funders at any point in their philanthropic journey, from just getting started to refining or revamping strategies. As part two of our ‘30 Lessons’ series, we offer five actions you can take to inform your strategic thinking and, in turn, increase your impact.
Look beyond the obvious
If the answers were easy, the problems facing our world would have been solved by now. Ask questions continually. Embrace new ideas and different ways of working. Adopt a beginner’s mind.
Be both strategic and opportunistic
The path to impact is rarely linear. Map your plan, but be open to lessons learned and changing conditions along the way. Don’t expect to end up in the place originally planned – stay open to changing course as you learn more and uncover opportunities with great potential.
Invest in people
Find the best people to support, and then work in close partnership with them. Find ways to go beyond financial support, including offering hands-on involvement. Consider how you can engage your whole self – your talents, your networks, your convening power, and more – in order to leverage greater impact.
Take informed leaps of faith
Be open to taking risks. Place bets on people who are highly committed and have strong leadership skills and powerful ideas.
One size does not fit all. Solutions must be tailored to local needs, culture, and other unique conditions. Philanthropy can play many important and catalytic roles in society – but it takes some work to devise the most promising long-term strategies to achieve one’s goals.
Where are you in creating a vision, focus, and goals for your philanthropy? What would you share based on your experience?
Don’t forget to check back next month for our next set of lessons relating to strategy.
Leslie Pine is managing director at the Philanthropic Initiative