Is Your Impact Strategy About the Journey or the Destination?

April 29, 2016 Michelle DiSabato

This article was originally published on npENGAGE.

We’ve all heard Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotation: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” But when it comes to results-focused giving and today’s philanthropic sector, it’s really about both. The thing is, you need to know your destination and then take the right journey to get there.

It’s no secret that we’re at a point of impact in the giving sector where actions aren’t enough—it’s about achieving measurable outcomes that demonstrate how your giving activities have improved the situation for your intended population. That’s where strategic philanthropy should begin—at the end.

As you’re defining your intended outcomes, you’ll start thinking about the journey to get there. And here’s where things get interesting. As part of the industry-wide revolution in how we measure the effectiveness of our giving, there is also an important shift in the path we take to get there. And what we’re finding is that the strategic approach to philanthropy some have taken in the past may need revision going forward.

How do today’s results-focused giving leaders view social impact strategy?

  • Two-Way Communication: Funders and nonprofits focused on impact know that communication is key. On the nonprofit side, you know how important it is to be heard when it comes to program direction – after all, you’re on the front lines and have the firsthand insight into what’s working and your community’s needs. On the foundation side, it’s important to ensure there is balance to your social impact conversations, and that you’re clear on your intent while truly listening to what your nonprofit partners have to say. Creating a strategy in a vacuum can hamper your progress toward impact.
  • Continued Collaboration: Listening is one thing; working together toward common goals is another. Results-focused giving leaders on both the funder and the grant recipient sides of the table know that a collaborative approach can be critical to program effectiveness. Setting strategy collaboratively, refining strategy collaboratively, and assessing strategy collaboratively keep everyone on the same path toward your intended outcomes.
  • Balanced Partnership: One of the reasons we are so excited about our new outcomes measurement solution is that it empowers a new level of partnership between funders and grantees. Results-focused organizations on both sides see the ability to foster stronger communication and increased collaboration as a path toward true partnership, and that balanced, respectful partnership can help you get to your intended impact more effectively.

Don’t think of strategy as a daunting concept or as something happening behind the scenes. In the world of philanthropy and results-focused giving, strategy should be a shared responsibility across funders and funded, with an emphasis on frequent communication, continued collaboration, and goal-focused partnerships.

There are many paths to your destination—be sure that you’re taking the best path to get there.


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