Embracing four mindsets towards impact-led philanthropy

'Today forward' is an approach that begins with the status quo and builds a philanthropic plan incrementally from there

Amrita Parekh
Published: 27, Sep 2018

As part of the KnowledgeCreation & Dissemination team at Dasra, Amrita Parekh leads research reports and projects across development sectors such as Strategic Philanthropy, Sanitation and Adolescents.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

In a country where over one million children died before their fifth birthday in 2017 alone, and where more than 350 million people still defecate in the open, the need is more urgent than ever before, for philanthropy to supplement the government’s efforts to address India’s serious development challenges and achieve its Sustainable Development Goals, 2030.

While there is scope to do more, recent trends are promising. A growing recognition of the scale of India’s social issues and the speed at which we need to effect sustainable change, is driving an increasing number of Indian philanthropists to not only give more, but also give strategically, considering impact first. The India Philanthropy Report 2018, a joint publication by Dasra and Bain & Company, sheds light on the philanthropic experiences and approaches of 33 such philanthropists and highlights four critical mindsets which, if embraced, can help you realise your full philanthropic potential and create maximum impact on the ground. These four mindsets are:

Embrace not only a ‘today forward’ approach but also a ‘future back’ lens to planning your philanthropic journey
“Today forward” is an approach that begins with the status quo and builds a philanthropic plan incrementally from there. By contrast, the “future back” approach begins with a vision of the future state and works backward. While the former approach has an inherent value of its own and currently has significant adoption among those interviewed, there is a need for more philanthropists to design their giving plans based on a clear and bold vision. Ultimately, a balanced combination of both approaches is required in order to enhance the effectiveness of your giving and truly move the needle on key development indicators across India.

Appreciate the importance of both the heart and the mind in making philanthropic decisions
While philanthropy is no doubt a very personal endeavor that is often sustained through a strong emotional connection, driving true impact at scale also requires you to be “mind-driven” and conduct your giving through an objective analysis of the needs of vulnerable communities. The report indicates that about 40 percent of respondents decide where and when to give based on their personal experiences or areas of interest, attesting to the significance of the heart in inspiring critical philanthropic decisions. Maintaining this emotional connect while simultaneously undertaking robust assessments to identify areas with maximum need and potential impact, can help make your philanthropy most effective and thereby more satisfying.

Focus not only on inputs but also on outcomes to assess the effectiveness of your philanthropy
The focus on philanthropic inputs – for example funds and time – is no doubt critical. However this is not enough to create systemic and sustainable impact. Having a fine understanding of how these inputs link to desired outcomes helps to prioritise impact, ensure documentation of learning, and enhance the effectiveness of future giving. When questioned about their philanthropic vision for 2020, about 60 percent of those interviewed defined it in terms of increasing philanthropic inputs, pointing to their long-term commitment to the sector. However, to translate this commitment into real change, it is recommended that you go one step further and articulate the outcomes you seek to achieve through these investments, and assess your giving against these, in the short to long term.

Go beyond a funding-only role to become an active and collaborative investor
While financial capital is undoubtedly a requisite component for nonprofits to scale their work, it can only go so far in creating holistic impact. Offering non-profits your time and expertise, collaborating with other philanthropists and institutions, leveraging your networks to help nonprofits grow, and lending your voice to promoting philanthropy among peers are equally, if not more important approaches to multiplying your philanthropic impact. Recognition of the immense value of going beyond check-writing is a promising trend among Indian philanthropists, with more than 80 percent of those interviewed currently adopting this approach.

Embracing these four mindsets requires a great deal of patience, commitment, boldness and balance. While the philanthropic community in India is still at a nascent stage in ensuring uptake of most of these mindsets, we see a growing wave of philanthropists who are actively building greater rigor into their philanthropy and keeping impact at the center of their work. While there is no one “right” way to give, nimbly balancing both ends of the spectrum is the key to truly imbibing each mindset. Together, they are valuable in ensuring that your philanthropy stretches to achieve its full potential, helping you contribute strategically towards this landmark chapter in India’s development history.

The author is a part of the KnowledgeCreation & Dissemination team at Dasra.

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