Your philanthropy guide

Philanthropy should be hugely rewarding for you, and the charities you support, if you’re clear what impact you want to achieve through your giving. Being mindful of your philanthropic aspirations and planning upfront will help you make informed decisions and generate the impact you want with your philanthropy.

Our guide walks you through the three stages of giving, and will keep you on the right track to achieving your philanthropic goals.


Decide what you want to achieve with your philanthropy by writing down your aims and objectives. These should be personal and reflect your values, passions and beliefs. They will help craft a framework against which you can measure success.

Your aims should focus on what you expect to change as a result of your philanthropy; your aims are effectively your statements of intent (eg Aim: to increase the number of children in primary school education in Malawi). Think of this as the ‘what’. Your objectives relate to the activities that will drive the measurable outcomes of your aims (eg Objective: provide 200 more funded primary school places in the Nyika plateau region). Think of this as the ‘how’.

When setting your aims and objectives, you should consider the following:

Why do I want to give?

Think about what inspires you to give. Are your reasons emotional or rational? Is it a family tradition? Are you angry about serious injustices in the world? Understanding your motivations provides focus and ensures that your giving is fulfilling. The most successful philanthropists give as a result of fierce compassion – an outrage at a lack of progress or provision in any one causal area, and a deep desire to turn that outrage into action.

What are your beliefs, values and passions?

Being clear about your values and beliefs can help you to concentrate your giving on what matters to you. You might want to consider writing a short mission statement that articulates your personal values, as well as your beliefs, such as:

‘My mission is to support young people in the arts and the institutions dedicated to encouraging and nurturing creativity’

‘I believe that offering opportunity to young people to participate in a rich cultural environment will help them to develop their creativity at a crucial milestone in their lives’

What life experiences have shaped you?

Who you support can be influenced by your life experiences. Perhaps you grew up in a coastal town and saw the work of the local lifeboat team, or volunteering at a food bank as a young person inspired you. A dramatic change in circumstances or meeting inspirational people in your professional life could also have an effect on which causes you give to. Most successful philanthropists use their ‘story’ and their ‘journey’ to inform their giving. It increases the connection to their philanthropy and, therefore, the overall sustainability of their giving.

What causes do I care about?

Think about what really matters to you, and why. Has one particular cause had a huge impact in your life? Do you want to give to less well-supported causes? Do you feel an affinity with a certain cause area for example animals, mental health or childhood education? Making a list of the causes you want to support – and why – can help crystallise your thoughts.


Once you've set your aims and objectives, you need to translate these into a practical and achievable plan or giving strategy. This will be shaped by whether you want to tackle the root causes or alleviate the symptoms, the resources available to you and your knowledge and experience of what works best.

When developing a strategy, you should consider the following:

What is my focus area?

‘Health’ is a huge area, so you should think about your target demographic and/or one particular problem you want to help solve. The clearer your focus, the bigger the impact your strategy will have.

If you have an interest in many diverse areas, or as a family you can’t decide which to support, you could consider focusing on one cause per year or having multiple strands specific family members take the lead on.

What types of organisations do I want to support?

Are you looking to support a small but innovative charity which is just getting started, or an established one which has effective programmes in place but needs more funding? Consider your appetite for risk and how you may want to create a balanced portfolio of activity from high to low risk. Research the organisation’s Trustees and senior staff to get a better handle on its governance as well as the impact that organisation has had for a demonstration of how effective it is.

What kind of funding can I offer?

Depending on your strategy, you may want to give a one-off grant, staggered funding over a number of years (multi-year funding) or ongoing support through social investing. You might also consider non-financial assets as investments in your chosen organisations, for example volunteering your skills or time, making introductions between the charity and influencers in your social or business network or opening up data and/or intellectual property (IP) that you may have access to.

What kind of philanthropist do I want to be?

If you have privacy concerns around the use of your personal information, you should decide whether you’re happy for beneficiaries to have your name and address or if you’d prefer to remain an anonymous donor. Ask yourself whether you’d welcome further requests for donations from your charities. Do you have brand equity that, if used well, could drive more support for the causes you care about?

Take a short quiz to discover your philanthropic preferences. 

How involved do I want to be?

It’s worth thinking about how involved you want to be with your cause. Do you want to provide hands-on support, act in an advisory capacity or are you happy to remain a hands-off, occasional observer? Do you want to get your friends and family involved with your giving or ask your business network to lend their time and skills?

There's no definitive answer to any of these questions, but you can use these points to help clarify your preferences and provide you with a clear understanding of your level of involvement.

What impact do I want to see?

Consider your philanthropy as an investment. What growth in size and impact do you expect to see from your cause over a certain time period? What measurements do you want to put in place? How does the organisation you’re supporting evaluate its success? Be realistic in terms of how you want to be informed of progress; a smaller charity may not have the resources to send you regular personalised updates, but they may have a website where they keep donors updated with news.


It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of organisations out there. It’s even easier to feel paralysed by the size of the challenge some of those charities, and society at large, face. However, with research you can find the right partner to make the most of your funding, bringing your strategy to life and achieving your aims and objectives.

When you start exploring charities, think about:

  • Mission: what are their goals and do you believe in them? Do they work towards an objective that has affected you or a loved one?
  • Activities: what are their activities; do they support its mission?
  • Results: can they provide evidence of the impact it has had on the issues it tackles?
  • Leadership: do they have a clear vision, strong management and robust governance?
  • People and resources: do their Trustees have a good track record of charity governance? Are staff and resources used effectively to deliver their mission?
  • Key associations: who are they associated with? Who are their major donors?
  • Finances: are they sustainable? Do they manage their money well? Do they have diverse enough income streams to overcome a dip in one or more of their funding sources?
  • Ambitions: what are their long term goals; are they realistic and achievable?
  • Achievements: have they won any sector awards?


This simple guide provides a starting point from which to assess your giving, and helps you make more strategic decisions when it comes to your philanthropy. Don’t forget to reflect on what you’ve learned and use these insights to adapt your plan over time. Annual reviews can often be very helpful in assessing success against your stated mission, aims and objectives.

If you want to talk to someone about how to get the most from your philanthropy, our specialist Advisors can support you every step of the way, from talking you through your strategy to helping you with your research. Complete our online form to arrange a meeting or an informal chat.

Other resources that might interest you

Evidence vs Impact

Unsure whether your philanthropy is making a difference? We explore how donors can use evidence to inform their charitable giving.

Is there a right or wrong way to give to charity?

Aurelia Kassatly busts some common myths about giving to charity.

New to philanthropy?

If you’ve just started thinking about philanthropy, our collection of publications, videos and blog posts offers expert insights into the latest trends.