4 Strategies for Effective End-of-Year Philanthropy

A charitable heart (Credit: Shutterstock)

This year, there’s so much on the table in terms of end-of-the-year giving. The challenge can be how to focus, and how to act. While established foundations likely have a grant-making schedule in place, less structured family philanthropies or individual philanthropists may be facing the challenge of last-minute decision-making: when to give and what to give.

Related: Top 3 Trends in Charitable Giving and Why They Matter

The best approach is to accept that this year is different — and may require your clients to make some adjustments to their usual strategy. Here are four simple strategies to follow for more effective end-of-the-year giving:

1. Offer flexible funding. 

Restricting funding for certain programs or activities just may not apply in a year when some organizations — such as arts organizations — are simply hoping to stay afloat until they can reopen and generate revenue with ticket sales. This is a key time to offer more flexible funding — such as unrestricted, general operating support. This will allow the nonprofit to navigate ongoing crises and take advantage of opportunities as they best see fit. If that means just keeping the doors open, that could be a huge accomplishment.

2. Decide and inform earlier. 

It’s likely been a very tough year for the nonprofits your clients support. They may have lost revenue and be facing uncertainties ahead. With that in mind, make your decisions a little earlier than usual. Instead of waiting until the very end of the year, let your grantees know what they can expect. The sooner they know what to expect, the better — and this way, they can plan ahead.

3. Ask how you can help. 

Do your clients know which areas their grantees need the most support with? Encourage your clients to consider having conversations with the nonprofit CEO and ask what they need specifically — and how they can help. It may be that they need something other than money, and they may be able to come through with their knowledge, expertise and connections.

Related: No Donor Slowdown in 2019 as Gifts, Amounts Spike

4. Support change. 

This year has laid bare so many inequities and injustices. Your clients can ask themselves how they can allocate funding in ways that help support and create equitable, transformational change.

Stuffing backpacks with school supplies and giving them to kids is great — no question. But we need to look at the larger picture as well: helping their parents get back to work in well-paying jobs so they can afford to buy their own school supplies is even better.

Look at the pain points the year has brought up, such as systemic racism and limited access to health care. If you can, direct your clients’ giving in ways that address them. If there’s any year to shift gears, this would be it.

The key is to help your clients support their grantees with the year-end contributions that truly speak to their needs — and to reach out to them to find out what those needs really are. Your charitable clients can make decisions that enable them to give with joy and meaning. Then, take the opportunity to revisit your client’s overall philanthropic goals, and head into the new year with a renewed sense of purpose.


Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a global philanthropy advisor, speaker and award-winning author of Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail To Achieve Change and What They Can Do To Transform Giving. Learn more at Putnam-Consulting.com.

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