Strategic Philanthropy

A new WGA member often self-identifies with attributes such as these: invested in the community, a volunteer, a donor.

It is later that WGA members realize they are also philanthropists, and have been all along. And through WGA, they deepen and sharpen their philanthropy to become more strategic.

For many of us, philanthropy begins with a feeling, but without a plan in place or specific goals in mind. We give to help someone in need, improve a social wrong or connect with others who care as we do. Indeed, philanthropy doesn’t have to be strategic to create change, but it can be far more effective when it has a focus and a purpose. A significant part of why many WGA members remain with the organization is that through WGA, our giving is strategic.

WGA Founder Delores Barr Weaver and WGA Members Crystal Freed and Sabeen Perwaiz talk at an event.

WGA Founder Delores Barr Weaver talks with WGA Members Crystal Freed and Sabeen Perwaiz

What Is Strategic Philanthropy?

Strategic philanthropy creates an impact greater than the actual dollars or time invested.

Strategic Giving & WGA

Strategic philanthropy creates an impact greater than the actual dollars or time invested. It typically focuses on root causes and comprehensive solutions to make a lasting difference for entire groups of people. WGA uses several tools to be strategic in our giving:

  • Collective giving – We pool hundreds of individual gifts to create a larger Grants Pool and increase our impact.
  • Research – We use research to delve deeper into issues and understand proposed solutions.
  • Grantmaking – We use a rigorous grantmaking process to maximize resources. We identify areas of need, monitor progress, and evaluate progress.
  • Focus areas – We frequently concentrate our efforts to accelerate change. Through education, advocacy and collaboration, we’re able to create a ripple effect in Northeast Florida that goes far beyond our own efforts.
Mrs. Van Vleck

“I strongly believe research is the primary building block in strategic philanthropy. Once you know the need, you are on your way.”

Joan Van Vleck (deceased), WGA Past President

Inspiring Strategic Philanthropists

Our mission tasks us with improving the lives of women and girls in Northeast Florida and inspiring women to be strategic philanthropists. To inspire strategic giving, we regularly share useful tools and resources with our Members. Understanding these, discussing them and forming a personal plan that aligns with our individual values is strategic philanthropy. Below are some of the tools Members have found useful as they evolve into strategic philanthropists.

People interpret and go about philanthropy in different ways. In their essay “The Four Traditions of Philanthropy“*, authors Elizabeth Lynn and Susan Wisely outline a framework with four traditions of giving: Relief, Improvement, Social Reform and Civic Engagement.

  • Philanthropy as Relief – Philanthropy understood as relief operates on the principle of compassion and seeks to alleviate human suffering, i.e. “Feed the hungry.”)
  • Philanthropy as Improvement – Philanthropy understood as improvement operates on the principle of progress and seeks to maximize individual human potential (i.e. “Teach the hungry to fish.”)
  • Philanthropy as Social Reform – Philanthropy understood as reform operates on the principle of justice and seeks to solve social problems (i.e. “Attack the causes of hunger”.)
  • Philanthropy as Civic Engagement – Philanthropy understood as civic engagement operates on the principle of participation and seeks to foster community (i.e. “Why does this community tolerate hunger?)
  • WGA circulates a “Four Traditions” handout to stimulate discussion and help Members understand how these traditions come together in different programs, services and organizations throughout Northeast Florida.

* Source: Davis, Adam, and Lynn, Elizabeth, Editors. The Civically Engaged Reader. Chicago: The Great Books Foundation, 2006

Different circumstances may call for different approaches to philanthropy. Depending on the problem you’re trying to solve, the results you wish to achieve and your internal capacity, individuals and organizations may focus on one of three types of philanthropy: Traditional, Venture or Catalytic. WGA employs all of these approaches in our grantmaking.

  • Traditional Philanthropy is responsive. Funders assume a relatively passive role, making short-term commitments to grantees so they may implement programs and services. Traditional philanthropy plays an important role in supporting and sustaining nonprofits and the work that they do.
  • Venture Philanthropy is viewed as an “investment”. It tends to be more proactive, with funders looking for social returns on investments in capacity building, organizational effectiveness or evaluation. Venture philanthropy pushes organizations in new directions and holds them accountable for results in more rigorous ways.
  • Catalytic Philanthropy begins with the problem, the challenge or the issue. The catalytic philanthropist asks, “Why does this condition exist? What needs to happen to change it? Who needs to be involved?” Catalytic philanthropy is, by definition, proactive. It frequently requires cross-sector collaboration, and investments tend to be longer term (e.g. research that leads to action, alliance building or fostering public will). Success is measured by steady achievement of interim goals toward long-term gains. Catalytic philanthropy is critical if communities are to tackle large-scale challenges – challenges that a single program or single organization are not equipped to address.

Donating money is not the only type of philanthropy; there are many ways to give. Ambassador James J. Joseph of the Council On Foundations, describes five types of capital that each of us can use to serve a public good:

  • Social – Networks of people
  • Moral – Political independence
  • Intellectual – Knowledge and data
  • Reputational – Ability to influence
  • Financial – Money

Interested in learning more? Browse our resources below or join us as a Member.

Organizations In Northeast Florida

National & Global Women’s Giving Organizations

  • Philanos is a network of women’s collective giving grantmakers, representing more than 80 collective giving grantmaking groups in the United States, Australia, and England with more than 18,000 women. Since 1995, the organizations in Philanos have awarded more than $176 million into their respective communities.
  • Women Moving Millions is an organization of women who have made gifts and pledges of $1 million or more to organizations or initiatives promoting the advancement and empowerment of women and girls.

Research & Ratings

  • Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducts rigorous research and shares findings to address women’s needs, promote public dialog and strengthen families, communities and societies.
  • Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University is the world’s first school dedicated to the study and teaching of philanthropy. The school helps to deepen understanding of how, when and why gender matters in charitable giving and volunteering.
  • The Bridgespan Group is a nonprofit adviser and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists.
  • Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator that provides free ratings of the financial health, accountability and transparency of thousands of nonprofits.