By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy
A point of view is a distinctive attitude about philanthropy—what you as a funder believe you can best accomplish, and how to do it. I have noticed that philanthropists who have a point of view are more intentional, more confident, and more bold and daring. They have thought through not only their mission and focus—but what they believe the purpose of their giving should be.
A point of view is personal, passionate, biased—and deeply considered. This makes it powerful. Having a point of view means committing to a way of looking at things, taking a stand. You acquire an edge, which allows you to cut to the urgent issue you’re most passionate about, and take action. With a point of view, you make decisions quicker, and take advantage of emerging opportunities.
Statements by philanthropists offer a window into their unique points of view:
- We are catalysts.
- Personal responsibility is critical, and we help people to help themselves.
- Many are caught in circumstances where they can’t earn a living and support their families. We try to change the system and increase opportunity for all.
- We look for the smartest, most dedicated, most passionate people working in nonprofits and social enterprises, and empower them to do what they do best.
- In my career in business, I lobbied government on behalf of our industry’s interests. Now as a philanthropist, I advocate government on behalf of the cause I believe in. How much more important this is!
- Current events point to a landmark chance to make the most of our assets, and we can’t wait. We must act decisively, now.
- When there is a need for someone to take bold action, most people assume that someone will act. But often, no one does. People are timid, afraid, or they don’t feel they can make a difference. But funders have tremendous freedom, and perspective. That is why when we see a need, we speak out, and act boldly.
The process of developing a point of view itself is valuable. It’s a chance to take both a deep look inside, and a thoughtful look at the world. It’s an opportunity to develop perspective, clarify and test your beliefs and assumptions, and consider the variety of powers and potential available to you as a philanthropist.
Begin by considering questions such as these:
- What are my values? What do I truly believe?
- What is my responsibility to other citizens?
- What trends are really important to our community and country?
- What change needs to happen?
- What is the appropriate role of government?
- What is the role of philanthropy? Is it to meet immediate needs? Nurture talent? Experiment, test, and support research and development for society? Help government work better? Create social change?
- What is the best use of philanthropy? Philanthropic dollars represent only a small part of spending in our country. But foundations and donors have a unique position, and special capabilities.
As you clarify your values, beliefs, and assumptions—or those of your foundation board—you are able to look at them with perspective, and assess them, challenge them, and refine them. In the process, you sharpen your point of view.
Perhaps the greatest power of developing your point of view is the direction and momentum it gives you. As you learn, assess other views against your own, and open doors for making change, a point of view takes you places.
What is your point of view on philanthropy? How did you develop it? What impact has it had for you?
10-Minute Impact Assessment, a simple tool to help you identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement
Twenty Ways to Make a Difference, a primer from Exponent Philanthropy available in PDF (free to members) or hard copy
Senior Program Director Andy Carroll writes resources, designs workshops, and facilitates seminars for funders. Andy also dedicates a significant portion of his time to managing our Leadership Initiative that defines, validates, nurtures, and celebrates the many ways philanthropists lead. Andy has 25 years of experience in nonprofit organizations, and he enjoys talking with funders about their questions, interests, passions, and plans for making a difference.