Many of us think that we want to somehow make a difference in the world but don’t know exactly how we want to have an impact.
There are many examples of how to build things in our lives – like businesses, organizations, structures – and generally growing our financial resources, however, there are few models on how to use resources well, and this does require equally serious consideration.
Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist understood this and reflected in his later years: "I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution."
But where to begin? In the Sound of Music, the Von Trapp children begin to learn to sing with "do re mi"; for philanthropy our "do re mi" is values.
Just over a year and half ago, I participated in a workshop put on by an organization called 21/64, a non-profit practice specializing in next generation and multi-generational engagement in philanthropy and family enterprise. The workshop introduced us to a number of excellent tools including one stand-out for helping individuals and families explore their values: the motivational values cards.
In this exercise each member of the family is handed a deck of 28 cards with motivational values identified on each card - values like “Opportunity: creating possibilities for others to advance”; “Innovation: finding new and creative ways of doing things”; and “Recognition: being appreciated and seen for your efforts”. There are a number of ways to do this exercise, including prioritizing all the values cards from top to bottom, but my preference is to ask each person to identify the top three to four cards that most motivate their decision-making. Then I ask them to describe why they made these choices.
The discussion amongst family members is always interesting and insightful. The exercise encourages family members to become comfortable in the role of active participants in the philanthropy process so they can feel good about the impact of their gifts. This collaborative process helps everyone involved to understand and respect their individual and shared values.
We use these values as the initial building blocks - the "do re mi" - to project into a tailored and strategic giving plan.
As a philanthropy advisor, I enjoy working with families and individuals to create and facilitate a safe and productive environment to articulate values, interests and goals. Together we develop and implement a plan to make giving meaningful, strategic and effective.