Toolkit Overview

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The Stanford PACS’ EPLI Philanthropy Toolkit is comprised of six modules designed to provide you with the tools and resources you need for a successful philanthropic journey. This process can be completed with a trained facilitator (such as a wealth advisor) or independently. You may wish to include family members as well. 

We created this toolkit in collaboration with wealth advisors across the United States in response to the philanthropic questions and challenges their clients face every day. Stanford PACS EPLI curated and created the activities and resources in each module, with references to additional non-EPLI resources in the Additional Resources section of each module.


Who is this for?

This toolkit is designed for high-net-worth (HNW) donors interested in stepping into or continuing a role as effective philanthropists. Effective philanthropists go beyond writing checks to nonprofit organizations. They support the impact of effective organizations aligned with their philanthropic missions. It is personally meaningful as well as socially impactful.

Why use this toolkit?

Creating sustained social impact and maximizing the value of your philanthropic dollars takes careful planning and reflection. Without extensive experience in the social sector, the process can seem overwhelming at times. This toolkit guides you through each stage of your philanthropic planning. It provides you with resources and activities to ensure that your philanthropy can positively contribute to improving the world around you, while adding more meaning to your own life.

How can you use this toolkit?

We encourage you to make this toolkit work for your needs and financial situation. You can work through it in order, or jump to the specific modules that apply to the current stage of your philanthropy. Spend as much time as you need to achieve the objectives in each module—you do not need to come up with all the answers in a single sitting, or even in a single year. 

You can easily adapt this toolkit’s activities and worksheets for a couple or a family. For example,

  • for worksheets, each participant can receive a copy and complete these worksheets separately before coming together to discuss their responses and determine a collective decision.
  • for activities involving cards, you can print multiple copies of the cards, and each participant can go through the exercise individually and then share their responses, or you can work through the activities together.

Working through this toolkit with the guidance of a financial advisor can help you integrate your philanthropic planning into your broader wealth management strategy. Your advisor’s expertise on financial structures, as well as knowledge of your personal finances and goals, may also be helpful at various points in the toolkit.

Our goal is to help you transform your philanthropic vision into action without getting stuck in the planning stage of the process. Many successful philanthropists find it helpful to organize their philanthropy into different cycles—they create a three-year or five-year giving plan, use that time to test their plan and learn in the field, then revisit and adapt the plan before continuing the process. We encourage you to create a timeline for yourself before beginning the toolkit. 

We believe that there is no single correct way to be a philanthropist. What matters is that you make informed, thoughtful decisions and continue learning along the way.

The toolkit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. We permit others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work, as well as make and distribute derivative works based on it, including for commercial purposes. You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

How was the toolkit developed?

EPLI began this project in 2016, interviewing financial intermediaries across the U.S. to better understand how improved philanthropic planning and guidance could be integrated into the financial planning process.  We then prioritized working with wealths advisors because of their unique role connecting various strands of a client’s financial plan.  The Initiative plans to expand its work to support other financial intermediaries in the future.
Through a human-centered design process, we designed and developed several prototypes and tested them with financial institutions, donor advised funds, and wealth advisors across the country. Participating advisors came from firms of varying sizes, experiences, and levels of comfort in discussing philanthropy with their clients.  
Additional information about this research can be found here, “Helping wealth advisors increase philanthropic impact for high net worth clients.”


Nadia Roumani, EPLI’s Co-founder and the Director of EPLI’s Financial Intermediary Philanthropy Initiatives, leads the research, design and development for The Philanthropy Toolkit. Paul Brest serves as the Principal Investigator for this initiative. EPLI Fellows Sarena Chan and Ayushi Vig were instrumental in the Toolkit’s design and development, and previous contributing fellows include Tina Sadeghi, Gillian Raikes, and Celina Artusi.  Anthony Cappetta supported the Toolkit’s design and layout, and DeAnna Burghart provided the copy editing. 
EPLI’s research and Toolkit development were generously supported by the Raikes Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Schwab Charitable, and Perpetual.  We especially want to thank the Schwab Charitable team for their detailed feedback and ongoing collaboration.  We would also like to thank the various experts and financial intermediaries who graciously shared their time and provided us with invaluable feedback.
Stanford Effective Philanthropy Learning Initiative

Stanford Effective Philanthropy Learning Initiative (EPLI) is an interdisciplinary team within the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS). Conducting applied research at the intersection of strategic philanthropy, the behavioral sciences, and design thinking, Stanford EPLI aims to help donors make more informed, outcome-focused decisions and thereby increase their philanthropic impact.

Stanford PACS 

Stanford PACS is a research center that develops and shares knowledge to improve philanthropy, strengthen civil society, and effect social change. Stanford PACS connects students, scholars, and practitioners with three primary goals: building the pipeline of scholars in the field, increasing practice-informing research on philanthropy and social change, and improving the practice and effectiveness of philanthropy and social innovation. PACS also publishes the preeminent Stanford Social Innovation Review.