How to Become an Inspired Philanthropist

From Just Writing Checks to Being Fully Engaged

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Tracey Minkin and her husband decided a few years ago that they should donate five percent of their income to good causes. Each January they hold their "budget summit," and decide what they want to change in their giving for the year ahead. They keep track on a spreadsheet where they can compare giving from previous years, and project how much giving and to whom they'll be able to donate.

They discuss the impact they hope to have, new nonprofits they might be interested in, and make sure that they support local, national and global causes.

Tracey Minkin is an inspired philanthropist. Hers is one of many stories that Tracy Gary, a long-time philanthropist and advisor to philanthropists, relates in her wonderful book, Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy, 3rd Edition,2008, Jossey-Bass.

This book makes the point that you do not have to be rich to be a philanthropist, but neither do you become one just by writing a check to a charity once a year. Philanthropy is about thought, care, deliberation, going beyond the expected, and becoming involved. It is about bringing your giving in line with your hopes for a better world.

Inspired Philanthropy will help you think in a new way about how you give, help you organize your giving, and lead you through a personal analysis of what you want to do with your giving and of those charities that you give to.

Here is a short version of the "Quickstart Guide" to inspired giving from this wildly useful book

Quickstart Guide to Inspired Philanthropy

  1. Begin with your values and passions. Choose two to five issue areas, populations, or approaches. Weigh these against what the community needs and your ideas of how change happens.
  1. Identify the mission, intention, or desired outcomes of your giving.
  2. Think about your immediate and lifetime giving: how much do you want to give now, or in the future? What will be your lifetime impact?
  3. Learn more about those areas you care about, or that you learn about through talking with others and research. Refine your priorities.
  4. Research which groups match your mission, and learn more about them through research. Evaluate the leadership of the organization, and its vision, budget, productivity, and partnerships. For some, consider becoming more involved as a volunteer, board member, or board committee member.
  5. Decide what percentage of your giving you want to direct to each area of interest and the types of strategies you want to fund.
  6. Decide how you want to make your giving decisions: alone or with others through a giving circle, foundation, or created community of givers and activists.
  7. Decide how you want to be involved with the organizations you fund.
  8. Think about your lifetime contributions and leadership through legacy planning and dialogue with your family about values and community needs.
  1. Join with others to consider meta-level issues, such as global warming or economic development, education, electoral reform, or health care.

Inspired Giving walks you through each of these steps, in depth, and even includes worksheets, a multitude of tips and charts, and plenty of personal stories from donors. It is really a book that you will consult again and again as you plan your giving.

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