The Philanthropy Toolkit

Finding Your Focus

HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR FOCUS AREAS?

Outlining focus areas for your philanthropy is key to effective, meaningful, and proactive philanthropy. 

This module will guide you through the following steps:

  1. Clarify your motivations and values 
    which will guide your decision making throughout the giving process; 
  2. Narrow your focus areas
    to identify the issues most meaningful to you and give your philanthropy direction; and
  3. Consider your time and talent
    to understand how you can contribute to your focus areas with your time and talent.

I. Clarify your motivations and values

 

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 a framework for decision-making at each step of the philanthropy process. 

The following two activities are meant to be completed together. Activity A provides reflection questions to help clarify the motivations driving your giving as well as the values underlying your giving. Activity B uses EPLI Value Cards to help you select the specific values that are most important to you.

 

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Finding-Your-Focus-A.pdf” title=”Finding Your Focus A” width=230]

 

ACTIVITY A. REFLECT ON YOUR MOTIVATIONS AND VALUES

Review the questions in Activity A to clarify your philanthropic motivations and the values important to your giving. Jot down your thoughts. We encourage you to consider each question fully.

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Finding-Your-Focus-B-1.pdf” title=”Finding Your Focus B” width=”230″]

ACTIVITY B. SELECT YOUR VALUES

Read the EPLI Value Cards and record the values important to your giving. There are also five blank cards to write in values not already on the cards. 

For couples and families, it can be helpful to do this activity individually first, and then share your responses and discuss areas of overlap and differences. You may also choose to place your selected values on a spectrum from somewhat important to most important.

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/EPLI-Value-Cards.pdf” title=”EPLI Value Cards” width=”230″]

EPLI VALUE CARDS

The full set of EPLI Value Cards includes the values listed below, plus five blank cards for any other values you want to highlight.

Accessibility

Accountability

Collaboration

Community

Creativity

Diversity

Effectiveness

Efficiency

Empathy

Equality

Equity

Faith

Freedom

Growth

Humility

Impact

Innovation

Inquiry

Justice

Leadership

Outcomes

Peace

Respect

Security

Tradition

Trust

 

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

 

II. Narrow your focus areas

The simplest way to organize your philanthropy is to focus on several specific issues, rather than giving across many issues. While your philanthropic budget certainly can allow room for reactive and emergency giving (see Structuring Your Giving), narrowing your focus areas for proactive giving helps prioritize your resources. 

This is true even if your philanthropy is concerned with a particular community—because you cannot give to every possible cause. It is also true for donors who are motivated by the philosophy of effective altruism, which is concerned with alleviating the conditions of abject poverty and avoiding global catastrophes. (see https://www.effectivealtruism.org/ for more information) 

Activities to narrow your focus areas

We have developed two activities to help you narrow your focus areas. Both activities help you reflect on issue areas and select which ones to initially integrate into your giving plan. 

  1. Look back at your giving history. Activity C is for donors who have a significant history of giving. This activity will help you take stock of your past giving and determine trends and themes. From there, you can understand which issues you are most passionate about, assess how you have supported them in the past, and decide if you would like to make adjustments.
  2. Begin with a clean slate and select issues without relying on precedent. If you wish to start with a clean slate, Activity D will help you explore a range of potential issues and select those that align with your values and motivations. 

Finally, effective philanthropists often narrow their focus even further by identifying a targeted population and location for each issue. For example, a philanthropist who selected “education” as an issue might narrow her focus area to adolescent girls’ math education on the South Side of Chicago. Activity E guides you through narrowing your focus to targeted populations and locations.

 

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Finding-Your-Focus-C.pdf” title=”Finding Your Focus C” width=”230″]

 

ACTIVITY C. LOOK BACK AT YOUR GIVING HISTORY

Review your previous contributions and volunteer work over a given period of time to identify issues that are meaningful to you.

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Finding-Your-Focus-D-1.pdf” title=”Finding Your Focus D” width=”230″]

ACTIVITY D. SELECT YOUR ISSUES

Read the EPLI Issue Cards and select the issues that you may be interested in supporting. The Issue Cards provide an overview of broad issue categories and include three blank cards for you to write in any other issues that might interest you—for example, a specific issue or organization you already know you would like to fund.

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/EPLI-Issue-Cards.pdf” title=”EPLI Issue Cards” width=”230″]

EPLI ISSUE CARDS

The full set includes the issues listed below, plus three blank cards for any other issues you want to highlight.

Arts, Culture & Humanities

Education

Health

Animal Related

Social Services

Food & Nutrition

Disaster Preparedness & Relief

International Development

Environment

Law & Society

Civil Rights & Advocacy

Place-based Giving

 

The EPLI Issue Card categories were selected from the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities, developed by the IRS and the National Center for Charitable Statistics to classify nonprofit organizations.

https://nccs.urban.org/classification/national-taxonomy-exempt-entities

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Finding-Your-Focus-E.pdf” title=”Finding Your Focus E” width=”230″]

ACTIVITY E. CRAFT YOUR FOCUS STATEMENTS

A focus statement frames your values and motivations and connects them with your philanthropic intentions. A strong focus statement can help you guide your philanthropic plan. We recommend creating a separate focus statement for each distinct issue. For each issue, consider the specific population and location you would like to address.

Example: We aim to address education inequality for low-income secondary school students in Grand Rapids Public Schools because this aligns with our commitment to equity in public education.

Craft short focus statements that articulate your intention to address each of your selected focus areas. If you don’t yet feel ready to articulate focus statements, you can return to them later in this toolkit or as you actually engage in giving, recognizing that they may change over time.

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided 

 

III. Contribute your time and talent

In addition to your financial contributions, you may consider deepening your philanthropy by contributing your time and talent by volunteering. Volunteering can be an excellent way to learn more about your focus areas. You can volunteer with organizations you support financially as well as other organizations. Nonprofit organizations sometimes post information about volunteer positions on their website.

One particular way to contribute your time and talent (i.e., professional skills, expertise) is to serve on the board of a nonprofit organization. Often, an organization’s senior leadership identifies prospective board candidates based on the skills and expertise that can complement and strengthen their organizations. While board service can be extremely meaningful, it can also be a significant time commitment.

If you are considering volunteering or serving on a board, complete Activity F

For more information on board service, refer to BoardSource in Additional Resources below.  

 

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Finding-Your-Focus-F.pdf” title=”Finding Your Focus F” width=”230″]

ACTIVITY F. REFLECT ON YOUR TIME AND TALENT

Review the questions in Activity F to reflect on your interest in contributing your time and talent to a particular focus areas.

Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

 

 

[pdf-embedder url=”https://pacscenter.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Finding-Your-Focus-Summary.pdf” title=”Finding Your Focus Summary” width=”230″]

EPLI PHILANTHROPY PLANNER: FINDING YOUR FOCUS AREAS SUMMARY

Fill in the table to outline your selected focus areas.

Suggested printing instructions: Legal-size, landscape, single-sided

 

Additional Resources

III. Contribute your time and talent

 

BoardSource

BoardSource is a 501(c)(3) organization that offers a range of tools, resources, and research data to increase board effectiveness and strengthen organizational impact within the nonprofit sector. BoardSource has developed a list of topics that addresses the fundamental aspects of nonprofit board service. BoardSource also offers trainings on board leadership for nonprofit organizations for an annual membership fee.

https://boardsource.org/ 

“Choosing a Nonprofit Board” video by Stanford Graduate School of Business

This video walks you through the process of deciding to serve on a board.

https://youtu.be/3Z6CyxdOsnw