Sarah Pook

Sarah Pook

Private Client Manager, Philanthropy Services

Charities Aid Foundation


There is a lot to think about when developing your giving strategy. To help you define your plans, we have put together several questions and pointers, for you to consider. Whether you are at the beginning of your giving journey, or keen to redefine a long-standing approach, we hope that this article will help to align your giving to the causes that matter to you.


First, identify the issues you want to address through your giving

It is a common assumption that the first step in developing a giving strategy is to identify charities to donate too. Hundreds of thousands of charities operate within the UK alone. Consequently, this method will be unproductive when attempting to identify the right charity.

Making matters more complicated is the fact that most issues are complex and multifaceted and the drivers behind them may not be what they seem. Take the issue of childhood obesity. This is a health-based problem, yet there is a positive correlation between childhood obesity and poverty. Obesity also has a fundamental link to bullying, a further social concern.

From this single example alone, we can see that multiple angles could be taken to tackle a seemingly straightforward problem. We recommend first adopting a high-level approach to understand the issues that you care about, and its drivers. It will then be easier to narrow down which solutions most connect with you.   


Why your attitude to risk matters

Once you have identified the issue you want to address, it is necessary to consider how you want to solve that problem. Are you interested in focusing on a matter within a specific geographical location? Or would you prefer to tackle the issue on an international or national scale? Do you want to try and change the way an entire systems works, or would you rather help solve a problem for a specific group of beneficiaries? 

Understanding how you view the issue, and determining the difference you want to see, will help you to recognise which option to take. Organisations operating at a grassroots level are generally working within communities.

In comparison, organisations working to create systemic change address the root cause of an issue and aim to alter the mechanisms that hold the problem in place. This approach can create long-lasting change.

Yet, systems change is also more difficult to achieve and so a better fit for donors with a higher appetite for risk. Creating change on such a high level is also an opportunity for philanthropic leverage – a way of using philanthropic capital to influence how others (donors, governments or the private sector) give to good causes. If successful, there can be enormous impact.

There is value in both approaches and, depending on the cause you want to support, it may be worth considering adopting both approaches to tackle an issue from multiple angles.


Consider how you want to give to the charities you support 

There are different ways in which you can support a charity. Would you prefer to commit to funding a charity for several years, allowing the organization to plan? Or would you rather make larger one-off donations to different organisation every year? It could be the case that you will have a portfolio of different organizations that you support, leading you to adopt a hybrid approach when donating (a mix of longer-term and shorter-term commitments).

While there is not a right or a wrong way to do this, you may wish to keep the following factors in mind. The most important is being willing to support running costs, or overheads of an organisation. We go into why this is relevant in this article that explores how to give well. It is also useful to speak to the charity before making a decision to understand what type of funding, and over what period, would be most useful to them. You may also wish to consider multiyear commitments to charities that align with your giving strategy, alongside smaller one-off donations to support humanitarian issues or personal causes close to your heart.    


Factor in your time horizon

How long you want to keep giving for? Do you hope for the next generation to continue giving beyond your lifetime? Do you wish to give all of your money away in a matter of years? Depending on your preferences, there may be limits to the amount that you can give away.

When thinking about your timeline for giving, you may also wish to think about the nature of the problems you wish to concentrate on.

There are a lot of problems facing the world today, many of which could be solved by a concentrated release of philanthropic capital. Given this, should funds go to charity now or be held back to solve future issues? This is particularly important because it is very difficult to predict the needs of a future world. If you would like to set-up your giving to continue after your lifetime, then ‘future proofing’ your strategy is something to think about. In particular, consider how you can fund issues with enough flexibility to be relevant to future generations.


Think about investing your philanthropic capital 

You may want to invest some of the capital, to preserve the levels of the philanthropic pot. At CAF we’re not regulated to give financial advice, but, here are some general pointers to think about.

It is worth considering whether you wish to align your investments with your values or to the cause areas you care about. You may want to ensure that the investments you intend to hold do not contradict the missions of the charitable organisations that will be the future beneficiaries of these funds.

Depending on the volume and speed at which funds pass through your trust, it may not be worth making investments at all. As an alternative you may want to explore making a social investment loan through CAF venturesome, where you can achieve a social as well as a financial return.

We hope that these points above help you to focus your giving and build your philanthropic strategy. For more guidance take our quiz to understand your philanthropic preferences.

We are always delighted to discuss strategic giving, and to provide tailored recommendations to you. If you have any questions, please reach out to your private client manager who will be able to support you further, or contact Helena on our advisory team directly (