More Bang for Your Charitable Buck

Despite some unsteady glimmers of hope in the economy, we’re facing a 2010 with nonprofits, donors and foundations, and local and state governments strapped for cash.  How can a donor or foundation achieve real results with limited resources?

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy provides one set of practical answers through its new, free “High Impact Philanthropy in the Downtown” report.  The 50-page report examines three areas in which donations and grants can both meet immediate needs and prevent large future costs to our communities:

  • Housing (foreclosure prevention) through housing counseling and outreach programs
  • Health through community health centers and targeted prevention and outreach programs
  • Hunger through emergency food providers and easing access to public benefits programs

I like the Center’s approach of basing its recommendations on a combination of the strength of research available, informed opinion from philanthropists and policy analysts, and direct observations of the programs.  (Full disclosure – I was asked to review a draft of the report.)

The report turns good research into practical advice.  For each area, the Center offers an analysis of the needs and trends, 2-3 case studies and cost-benefit analyses of effective solutions, tips for looking for best practices and asking good questions of local providers, and recommendations on sizes and types of grants that make the most difference.

Arabella Advisors offers a different set of answers in its new 2010 edition of “High-Impact Giving Opportunities.”  The free, 16-page report takes a more macro perspective by providing insights on using charitable resources to tackle:

  • Climate change through policy work
  • Human services through mergers and alliances
  • Education improvement through better partnering with government
  • Community development through mission-related investing

Take the opportunity to read both pieces.  Even if the exact issues they cover don’t meet your interests, anyone can learn from the processes they offer to plan and evaluate opportunities to make a difference.