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Giving strategically and getting results

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Question:

What are three simple strategies a high-net-worth donor can employ to ensure grantee accountability?

Answer:

* Make your expectations clear and get it in writing.

As a donor, you should have a certain set of standards you’ve arrived at, and you want the recipient to meet those standards.

To guard against misunderstanding, establish ground rules in the first meeting you have with a possible recipient organization and make sure to have a written agreement of specifically how your money will be used.

That’s not to say that if folks don’t follow this protocol exactly, you won’t make the contribution, but sophisticated donors make it very clear to their grantees that they expect a measurable, quantifiable impact.

Require formal updates, as well. If you can, draft a report template for these updates that includes the different questions you want answered on a regular basis.

* See for yourself.

If it’s at all practical, donors should do a post-grant site visit to see firsthand how the gift is being used and if it’s making an impact.

This is usually a very enriching and rewarding experience for a donor, and the nonprofits that receive these dollars are often eager to offer such visits.

* Be strategic.
We advise donors that they should never simply write a check. Instead, we help them identify unique programs or initiatives within an organization that they can fund specifically.

If you fund specific programs instead of making a general endowment gift, you have more direct impact; and this also allows you to get personally involved with the initiatives you fund.

From the perspective of the recipient organizations, there are ways they can make giving to operations, versus specific programs, more attractive — for example, by packaging such general funding with funding for a specific initiative or by allowing a general donor to be on an advisory panel for a specific initiative.

– Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd


Matthew Barnes is co-founder and partner of ASG Advisors, a boutique consultancy advising corporations and high net worth individuals on strategic philanthropy. ASG has professionals in New York, Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C., and in the spring of 2008 will have an office in London.

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