A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Change Up Your Giving With These Creative Strategies

Philanthropy is well-positioned to serve causes around the world in creative ways.

The following examples from Exponent Philanthropy members illustrate some less common giving strategies that draw on the unique assets funders hold. Use them to expand your portfolio, or be inspired to think of other ways to leverage your dollars, experience, reputation, and time.

Provide Meeting Space

Funders with access to office space, meeting space, or attractive or historic properties can make the space available to grantees and other nonprofits for office use, meetings, or special events. The use of free or reduced-fee space can save grantees and other nonprofits thousands of dollars.

Support Nonprofit Leaders

Funders are well positioned to shore up nonprofit leaders and their organizations through:

  • Coaching or sabbaticals for executive directors
  • Board development and training
  • Professional development for executive directors, senior management, or other staff
  • Consultants for strategic planning
  • Succession planning, an interim executive director, or support for new leaders
  • Staff retreats or other team-building exercises 

See also: Investing in Nonprofit Leadership for the Long Run (a foundation example)

Make Program Related Investments

Program-related investments (PRIs) are powerful and flexible tools for those who give through foundations.

PRIs include loans, loan guarantees, or other types of investments made by a foundation to support a charitable purpose. As long as the PRI serves a charitable purpose and meets a few basic requirements, the funds count toward the 5% annual distribution requirement in the year they are awarded. But unlike grants, PRIs generally return to the foundation to be used again for other charitable purposes.

PRIs can provide support on a larger scale than typical grants, leverage other financing, build capacity among recipients, and develop longer term relationships with organizations you trust. One type of PRI—a loan guarantee—can even leverage your foundation’s assets without actually spending a dime. A loan guarantee is a promise that, if the borrower defaults, a foundation will repay a previously agreed upon portion of a loan.

Offer Emergency Loans

Some foundations operate revolving loan funds to provide emergency loans to nonprofits. The nonprofits are often waiting for checks to arrive from the government or other sources, and the emergency loans keep critical services available. As PRIs, these loan funds are repaid to the foundation so it may make more emergency loans.

Engage in Direct Charitable Activities

Direct charitable activities are those in which a foundation maintains some significant involvement. They count toward the foundation’s annual distribution requirement and include pursuits such as:

  • Distributing or delivering goods, shelter, or clothing
  • Hosting educational seminars and conferences
  • Conducting research
  • Publishing and disseminating research results, conference reports, or similar educational material
  • Supporting the service of foundation staff on boards or advisory committees of other charitable organizations, or on public commissions or task forces
  • Providing technical assistance to grantees

It is important for private foundations to properly report direct charitable activities on tax returns (on Part IX-A of Form 990-PF).

 

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