As Mother Teresa liked to say, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Meaningful philanthropy is not only about how much one gives. Meaning comes from becoming truly engaged with one's philanthropy.
Combining hands-on experiences with charitable impact makes philanthropy more engaging and more likely to make a difference in the lives of everyone involved.
In this interview, former vice president for Global Philanthropy and Corporate Responsibility at JPMorgan Chase Anuja Khemka shares four simple ways you can maximize the impact of your foundation or your family’s giving, and make it more effective, more dynamic, more engaging and ultimately more meaningful.
Steve Mariotti: What are some characteristics of high net-worth individuals and families?
Anuja Khemka: This population is abundant in means and generosity of spirit. They can convene resources and influencers at the highest level to create change at the grassroots level. From my experience, high net-worth individuals are often driven by just one simple agenda: doing good.
SM: Why do you think this group can make such a difference?
AK: I helped a very generous American family fund an education program in India, School-on-Wheels, that converted a commercial bus into a mobile classroom. It traveled from one slum to the other to bring education to street children. The funding changed the life of thousands of vulnerable children and also helped build the capacity of the NGO, Door Step School—something that is critical to a lasting impact. Their funding continued year after year, addressing School-on-Wheels’ needs systematically and building capacity along the way.
This generous family’s work was effective because they were very hands on. They empowered the NGO they worked with. They uncovered the NGO’s challenges, helped mitigate red flags, and capitalized on opportunities for growth.
Clear reporting, honest evaluation and constant dialogue helped the School-on-Wheels reach its full potential. Recently, Prince William and Kate Middleton selected Door Step School as one of the three NGOs they visited in India.
SM: What are 4 tips you recommend to make philanthropy more impactful?
AK: Here are four tips I use with every one of my philanthropic clients. These tips really make a difference in the impact of their giving.
1. Make Reporting Meaningful & Strategic
In bigger foundations and corporate teams, reports pull a lot of information and on a weekly or monthly basis. I recommend preparing a quarterly or bi-annual report that is simple, so that positives and negatives jump right off the page.
With my own clients, we often use a basic template with important questions to avoid getting lost in too much data.
2. Use Evaluation to Build Capacity.
Evaluating your grantees and their progress can be more than an exercise in evaluating your dollars’ impact. It is also a time to collect intel on how you can build the capacity of your grantees and empower them.
On reports, ask grantees meaningful questions about their circumstances--such as what are your greatest challenges, what resources do you need to meet them, how can we better support you?
The data you gather can inform additional resources you may easily provide. This could mean a workshop with fundraising experts, information on succession planning, scholarships for leadership training, and resources on sustainability. Alternatively, you could provide funding to hire a consultant to provide strategic planning, marketing and communications support, and so on.
Use evaluation to help your grantee grow and become empowered. This is what I find so rewarding about working in philanthropy, and what is at the heart of true charity.
3. Forge Strategic Partnerships.
Collaborate and form strategic partnerships with other high net-worth individuals and philanthropists who share in your mission. This is a powerful way to exponentially increase the impact of your giving.
Mobilize a community of like-minded funders by organizing round tables and coalitions where VIPs weigh in on the impact of your work, discuss issues and research affecting the sector, agree on best practices, or even display grantee art work.
Developing strategic partnerships enhances your personal brand and helps build your grantees’ individual profiles. As a bonus to your grantees, the networking and publicity opportunities that are generated can win them new funders!
4. Engage your Family.
Create volunteering opportunities for your family and board members to meet your grantees. You can develop a year-round blog or an online “volunteer diary” that captures these experiences.
A short video showcasing the foundation’s annual impact can engage family members who might not be able to participate directly. It’s always more interesting and engaging to watch something dynamic like a video, versus reading multiple pages in print.
Organize a family and board retreat to brainstorm about how to enhance any existing programs and philanthropy. Make it a fun gathering!
SM: Any last thoughts?
AK: Giving is a joyful experience and it can powerfully enrich the lives of people on both sides of the gift. To be meaningful, giving should also create connection and community--between the giver and the grantees and also among the givers themselves. Truly meaningful philanthropy is about so much more than just money!