Guiding Giving

Last week, in a Wall Street Journal article, Shelly Banjo and Kristen McNamara described a trend among the very wealthy: formally targeting their charitable giving in order to achieve greater impact. They wrote,

 “As wealthy families reassess their investment portfolios and look to preserve their wealth, they are also rethinking their charitable giving. A growing number of families are writing so-called mission statements to guide their giving.”


They also explain some of the thought behind this practice of formally guiding family and foundation fortunes:

[There are] other factors for philanthropic families to consider: What’s the process for making giving decisions? How long will they be involved with certain organizations or issues? How will families evaluate the effectiveness of their gifts?

Banjo and McNamara cite several National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP) studies, highlighting that this is a new trend. In 2004, 6 of 33 family foundations said they had guided giving. In 2008, 82% of foundations indicated they had something formal guiding their giving.


While this may be a new trend among the wealthy based on the economy, we have been managing this approach for over a decade. It is also worth noting that one doesn’t have to be very wealthy to give or have someone manage that giving. Of the $300 billion that Americans donate on an annual basis, upwards of 70% of that giving comes from families with a very average income at increments of $40-$50 dollars. Every time I mention this statistic to anyone, they have a hard time believing me, but it is true. Small, well-managed donations add up and make a big difference.


It means that the cumulative giving among average families constitutes most of the charitable giving in this country. It means that small donations can add up to very large amounts. It means that we all, wealthy or not, need to give thought to our giving and make sure it is focused and handled with accountability.


Ashley Snowdon Blanchard, president of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, told the article’s authors that she felt focusing giving made for better donors:

“Not only is it better philanthropy to have some sort of focus, it’s a much more unifying experience as a family.”

That is why Operation Kids is here. This is what we do and we are grateful for this role and responsibility. We act as advisors to help our clients – whether individuals giving $100 or corporations giving millions – manage their giving in a focused, impactful way. We vet, consult and help find nonprofits, focused on children and their needs, that will make the most difference with each donation – and then let everyone know.

As year end is upon us and charitable gifts are possibly on your mind, please give. Especially in this time of need for so many. However, I ask that you give with purpose, focus and an expectation of results. If we can help, we are here. More importantly, I would ask that you spend some time thinking about where your charitable focus is – and which organizations or programs prove their efficiency and effectiveness and will maximize your donation.


If you can’t find the answers, let us know, and we will help.




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Filed under Initiative: Charitable Giving & Accountability

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