Effective Philanthropy Learning Initiative

Becoming a more Effective Giver

The 5-Week Effective Philanthropy Challenge

Just a few minutes a week— that’s all it takes to start giving more effectively.

Over the next 5 weeks, we’ll be sharing some quick tips to help you be a more effective philanthropist this Giving Season— whether you’re a seasoned donor and want to freshen up on best practices, or just starting out.

From Giving Tuesday until the end of the year, we invite you to participate in a weekly bite-size action to become a more strategic, intentional giver. Check in each Tuesday as we unlock a new “challenge” based on best practices of effective philanthropists

You can also sign up to receive email alerts each week.  Click here to sign up for email updates.

Give Better Challenge

Quick Tip #1: Reflect & Discuss

We are living in an era of immense changes and challenges. Giving back is one of many ways to respond meaningfully to the historical moment and breathe life into your hopes for the future. The end of each year is a great time to reflect on your giving, take stock of lessons learned, and set new goals.


  • Set a timer for a few minutes to reflect and journal about your giving this past year. Is your time, money, and attention aligned with your values and priority causes? Are there changes you want to make in how you are contributing?
  • Share and refine your ideas in conversation with others — such as family, friends, community leaders, or advisors.

For extra credit…

Read this article on “Preparing for the Future of Philanthropy” (Monitor Institute)

Quick Tip #2: Finding Your Focus

Articulating your motivations and values allows you to develop a proactive, effective philanthropic plan rather than giving reactively to funding requests. Ultimately, your motivations and values provide the anchor for decision-making at each step of the philanthropy process. You should always start with clarity about what you care about before choosing giving vehicles or organizations to support.


  • Do the Stanford “Find Your Focus” exercise, either on your own or with others:
    • Watch this 2-minute video to understand the importance of finding your focus.
    • Create or revisit your values statement and issues statement. Do the “Find Your Focus” exercise, either on your own or with others, guided by this slide deck.

For extra credit…

  • Talk to a friend or colleague about their values, and why it’s an important part of the giving journey. You can use the free online resources, or order the physical Values Cards to socialize this practice.

Quick Tip #3: 5 Ways to Find Effective Organizations

Here are 5 common ways to find effective organizations: follow the leader, give to issue funds, socialize giving, join donor groups, and conduct a landscape analysis. 


  • Pick one way to find a new organization to fund before the end of the year. Check out our Philanthropist Resource Directory for links to organizations and donor circles that can help you find effective organizations.

For extra credit…

  • Remember to go beyond your existing social and professional bubbles when you search for new organizations.  This will keep your perspective fresh and informed.  Read this article on how “Wealthy Donors Need to Go Outside Their Bubbles and Support Local Organizations Driving Social Change” (The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Quick Link:


Quick Tip #4: 6 Ways to Be an Awesome Donor

Nonprofits work hard to achieve their mission. Here are 6 practices to help you make sure you are being an effective supporter by uplifting nonprofit leaders, and trusting them to lead the change you all want to see in the world.


  • Look at your giving strategy for the new year, and consider where you can apply these 6 practices. Your grantees will appreciate it greatly.

For extra credit…

  • Check out the NEW chapter on “Trust-Based Philanthropy and Participatory Philanthropy” from the Stanford PACS Guide to Effective Philanthropy 
  • Learn more about trust-based philanthropy here: https://www.trustbasedphilanthropy.org/ 


Quick Tip #5: Leverage Your Resources (Coming Soon)

Making financial contributions is a big part of philanthropy, but effective philanthropists also think about how to use all of their “4 T’s”in service of social change—Treasure, Time, Talent, and Ties. Beyond your donation, listen to nonprofit or community leaders about what they need, and how best to mobilize your own (and others’) skills and resources to support their organization or cause.


Think about your priority causes and organizations. Take 10 minutes to write down how you might effectively use your 4T’s and consider taking one (or more!) action in each category:

  • Treasure: Make a multi-year commitment to an organization
  • Time: Commit to becoming a regular volunteer, perhaps as a board member
  • Talent: Reach out to a nonprofit or community leader to explore which skills you might offer (in addition to a donation) to bolster their work
  • Ties: Write up a shortlist highlighting 3-5 of your favorite organizations with a sentence about what inspires you about each one; then share it with your friends, family and social networks via email or social media

For extra credit…

  • Read the article “How to consider your philanthropy holistically” (Milken Institute) 
  • Read the article “How to engage with a grantee partner during a check-in conversation” (Trust-Based Philanthropy Project)


Continued Learning

We’re also providing a special holiday discount on our print resources, full of additional activities and information related to these quick tips. Our print Guide and Toolkit workbook make great gifts for family members, friends, clients, or colleagues interested in effective giving.

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