Society as we know it would be not the same without the continued generosity and the tireless effort brought forth by philanthropists. Philanthropy promotes the welfare of others, expressed through private initiatives for the public good. Many philanthropists are very thoughtful in their giving initiatives, as well as strategic in their approach. To go over five habits of highly effective philanthropists, we spoke with Isadore H. May, the Founder of Garden State Land Company, LLC, and founder of the Louis May Memorial Holocaust Endowed Scholarship in honor of his father.
Vision is often described as beginning with an end in mind, and this is the first step to successful philanthropy. Most philanthropists begin their work based on their values and what gives them personal meaning. Being able to create a giving plan with a theory of change and a framework that is aligned with ethics and value is what makes a successful philanthropist. Isadore H. May explains that one of the habits that creates an effective philanthropist is the ability to consistently re-evaluate this vision. A philanthropist becomes even more effective when they understand that as communities and their priorities and needs, so too will the vision. It is possible to remain aligned with your vision while exploring different pathways or opportunities to get there.
Aligned with vision re-assessment is being proactive. As an effective philanthropist, you are engaged with your local community and understand their changing needs and goals. Isadore H. May explains that empowering yourself to better support the sectors of the community you love; you are eager to seek out and use tools and resources to achieve this success. From reading local stories about the sector you are most actively engaged in, to asking for reports from the charities you currently support, being pro-active in your engagement is a crucial component to be an effective philanthropist.
The third key to becoming an effective philanthropist is listening. Isadore H. May explains that being able to listen, ask questions, and explore differences and welcome inclusive conversations will be key to responding to the needs of a changing community. Being committed to continual learning and engagement with non-profit and charity groups means actively listening to their evolving needs and respecting their expertise. If an organization is looking to support a specific program, as they feel it is the greatest area of need, take the time to listen to their reasoning and be sure to ask lots of questions.
Being an active participant in the communities in which you operate is crucial for making informed decisions. Isadore H. May suggests that you try meeting with new charities, non-profits or grassroots organizations to continually understand the landscape of your giving priority, speaking with directors, front line workers and agency members to respond to their greatest understood need.
Lastly, don’t be afraid of something new. Many of the social issues we face are long-term and permanent problems, and it is within your best interest to be prepared to do things that are untested, unpopular, and brave. These strategies tend to be the ones that make a real difference and can set a standard for practice for other communities and organizations.