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Philanthropy translates as ‘love of humanity’, but in modern day parlance it means privately funded initiatives that aim to produce positive results for the public good. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist and there are many different ways to become one, doing good for different causes and groups.  

One of the latest trends in philanthropy is to become an ‘inspired philanthropist’, moving away from simply giving vast sums of money – as only the super-rich can do – whilst also doing more than just giving one annual charity donation without much thought or personal input. Inspired philanthropists think deeply about their involvement with any organisation, care about doing the right thing and deliberate over where their money would be best placed.  

In order to become an inspired philanthropist, it is necessary to perform a personal analysis to discover the specific goals of giving. Philanthropists who wish to become more ‘inspired’ in their giving should ask themselves what their personal passions and values are – perhaps starting with 2-5 issues, approaches or populations and weighing them against each other, as well as against their ideas of how change should occur. The philanthropist should then make clear what exactly they wish to achieve with their charitable donations and think about their timespan for giving – i.e. how much should be donated now versus over a lifetime. 

 

To better understand which charities and organisations to donate towards, an inspired philanthropist will perform in-depth research as well as discussing potential areas of interest with friends and family. Philanthropists should try to look for organisations that are a close match in terms of mission, as well as researching each organisation’s leadership, aims, vision, productivity, budget and partnerships.  

If an organisation is a particularly good match it may be worth considering becoming more involved, joining as a volunteer, a board committee member or a board member. Joey Horn supports a number of charitable associations including Right to Play, Choate Rosemary Hall, Harvard Art Fellows and Oslo International School, as well as being a former trustee of Williams College; she was also a co-founder and co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Giving Committee. 

With a small number of chosen charities and organisations, the inspired philanthropist must then decide what percentage of their total giving to direct towards each area or organisation, as well as which types of strategies to fund. Philanthropists can also decide to donate as part of a giving circle, or a community organisation such as a church group, which can be particularly useful for the most significant issues that affect everyone including education, environmental issues, economic development, healthcare and electoral reform.  

The best types of donors and philanthropists tend to get more involved in the organisations that they help to fund; volunteering is one way to become more personally involved, as is becoming an activist on behalf of the organisation. Another facet of philanthropy is estate planning, which is an important part of philanthropic giving that should be considered alongside family members.     

There are a number of resources for philanthropists that wish to become more mindful with regards to their giving, including Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy by Tracy Gary. The book’s author also works with Women Moving Millions, a philanthropic organisation that focuses on raising resources for the advancement of girls and women around the world.  

Women Moving Millions has more than 300 members, all of whom have pledged $1 million (or more) to organisations that benefit girls and women. The non-profit also supports its members’ philanthropic skills so they can raise more funds for their chosen charities and organisations. For further information about the work of Women Moving Millions, please refer to the embedded PDF.