Taking time to reflect on your hopes and visions for giving is the first step to smart philanthropy.

The first leg of a journey to rewarding and impactful philanthropic giving can be daunting.

With so many causes in need of support, and an increasingly sophisticated menu of structures and shapes into which your giving might be built, the road ahead can seem obscure.

Few opportunities arise in an adult life to begin afresh on a blank page, but the undertaking of a philanthropic journey can be one of them. Before articulating your giving purpose and mission, it pays to pause for a discussion about your passions.

Antonia Ruffell, CEO of nonprofit philanthropy advisors Australian Philanthropic Services (APS), says guiding clients and beginner givers through the ‘visioning process’ is one of the most exciting parts of her job.

“The structuring of a client’s giving – deciding on the suitability of a PAF or a sub-fund in a public foundation, making the most of tax opportunities and ongoing investments – that’s the mechanics of giving,” she says.

“The exploration of a family’s values and interests – that’s the best part. That’s where truly transformative giving begins.”

Generosity-goals-2“The diversity of the grants that our clients distribute reflects how personal philanthropy can be,” Ruffell says. “From welfare and education projects, to the arts and medical research, through to overseas projects and orphanages – each individual and family finds what they are passionate about contributing to, and the variety is extraordinary.”

Funders who understand their passions can enjoy not only a personally rewarding giving experience, but also a more objective one. Being transparent about your motivations with advisors and charity partners goes a long way to setting achievable goals and manageable expectations.

At Australian Philanthropic Services, clients are taken through the philanthropy ‘visioning process’ with a questionnaire designed by APS Grantmaking and Evaluation Director Fiona Higgins. The questionnaire is a tool for use by APS to assess individual and client needs, and to help find common interests among families entering into giving together.

While the true value of the APS vision process is only fully unlocked in a discussion about questionnaire results with the foundation’s key decision-makers, here are nine questions excerpted from the APS resource to help you brainstorm your passions:

QUESTIONNAIRE: Probing your Passions

1. In your life, what do you really care about? What is important to you?

2. Are there particular ‘causes’ or issues that you have been naturally drawn to through life experiences?

3. What disturbs you or worries you most about the world and the future?

4. When have you felt most connected to community?

5. Describe a time when you felt truly inspired.

6. If you had a ‘mission statement’ for your life, what might it be?

7. Generally speaking, what would you say motivates you to be philanthropic?

(Some motivations might be: a sense of duty, a desire to make a difference, family tradition, responding to requests from friends, involvement in a cause you care about, etc.)

8. In an ideal world, what would you like to get back from the process of giving?

9. What do you think constitutes a ‘good society’?


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