Gearing Up Your Giving: Investing in Advocacy and Politics

Uncategorized Mar 22, 2022

 Outsize Impact Idea #3: Engage in Advocacy (and Politics) to Influence the Flow of Public Resources

If you are looking for outsize impact in your giving, don't overlook the opportunities that come with giving to support advocacy or even elections and political reform.   This post and video that goes with share some ideas about how to go about this kind of giving, and reviews some of the most common concerns that donors have about focusing their giving in this way.

As a starting point, it's worth remembering that many issues that matter a great deal take massive amounts of resources to address. Public education and affordable housing are two examples. One of the most leveraged ways for philanthropists to engage on these issues is by influencing how public dollars are allocated. 


Three key pathways for influencing public policy

  1. Influence policymakers’ choices through lobbying and other forms of advocacy.
  2. Influence who is actually in office by...
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Gearing Up Your Giving: Exploring the Unknown and Expanding Human Knowledge

Uncategorized Mar 15, 2022

 Outsize Impact Idea #2:. Explore the Unknown and Expand the Base of Human Knowledge

A second big idea for having outsize impact with your giving is explore the unknown--to expand the base of human knowledge,  Once a discovery is made it's a permanent expansion to the stock of human knowledge.  That's a potential benefit for everyone, and great leverage for philanthropists who back these discoveries. 

Some of the clearest examples involve medical research on curable diseases. 

 Take the "ice bucket challenge," for example.

This  was a crowd sourced craze in 2014 on the internet.  It raised $115 million to support ALS research in only 6 weeks. Those resources funded two breakthrough discoveries on previously unknown sources of the disease.


Another example is the  Gates Foundation's support to develop a vaccine against malaria. It has been a long haul since Gates first announced $168m to support this effort in 2008. A billion dollars...

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Gearing up Your Giving: Transcending Partisanship and Polarization

Uncategorized Mar 09, 2022

 Sometimes donors get stuck because the impact they believe they can have with their giving doesn’t feel big enough.

One of the most common concerns we hear from donors looking to gear up their giving goes something like this:

“Our family doesn’t have tens of billions of dollars like the biggest foundations and philanthropists. We want to know that our dollars are actually making a difference in the world. We want to feel like our giving really matters. How do we make an impact we can hang our hats on, one that makes our family feel like we’re making a genuine difference?” 

No matter which particular issues you focus on, there’s value in “thinking big” with your giving. This post is the first in a series that here's to help you think big about your giving whatever level of resources you’re bringing to the table. 

Idea #1. Transcend Hyper-Partisanship and Polarization

In the United States and across many countries...

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Gearing Up Your Giving: Getting Good with Your Wealth is Good for Your Giving

Uncategorized Mar 02, 2022

Getting good with your wealth is good for your giving.  This post is about how your relationship with your wealth connects with your approach to philanthropy.


Four Types of Giving: A Self Assessment

  1. Have you ever engaged in giving that you knew wasn’t helping those in the greatest need but was super important to you personally? Maybe supporting an educational institution your children attend or the capital campaign for someplace that already has a huge endowment? 
  2. Have you ever engaged in giving that you were pretty sure wasn’t producing much benefit for others and didn’t bring you much satisfaction either? Maybe this was giving that you were doing to satisfy a social obligation, or it was the pet project of another branch of the family. Or maybe you’ve had the experience of giving money to a donor-advised fund but haven’t gotten around to putting the money to work in the world by making distributions.
  3. Have you ever pushed so hard to...
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Gearing Up Your Giving: Strategic Philanthropy--And Six Alternatives

Uncategorized Feb 22, 2022

When you think about gearing up your giving, whose ideas are you planning to  back?  Yours or someone else’s? 

Strategic philanthropy is what you do when you have your own theory of change, your own ideas about how best implement that theory, and you invest your resources accordingly. 

In the most extreme version of this approach your grantees function like contractors hired to carry out elements of your strategy to your precise specifications. 

Strategic philanthropy positions the donor in the role of social entrepreneur--this can be a good fit for some donors with a deep understanding of the challenges they are seeking to address, but it's far from the only way that donors can position themselves for impact and fulfillment in the social change ecosystem.

Strategic philanthropy is often held up as the gold standard in the field,  but it is not actually feasible or fulfilling for many donors.

  • Rigorous and nuanced impact measurement is key to...
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Psychology 101 for Change Agents: A Practical Model for Understanding Human Motivation and Behavior

Uncategorized Feb 16, 2022

 If you really want to change the world, begin by changing yourself.   This is wisdom that is held in common across a wide variety of faith and philosophical traditions.  

As someone with a calling to make the world a better place, deepening your understanding of your own psychological wiring is a building block for more joy and more impact across all the areas of your life.  

This post explores a practical model for understanding human motivation and behavior that is grounded in human needs psychology.   Check out the video for an introduction to this model, as well as the series of 12 self-guided coaching modules that walk you through the practical application of these insights.   

Human Needs Psychology: At the Heart of Your Psychological Operating System

  • A great way to understand why we do what we do, and why others act and feel the way they do. 
  • Operates on a fundamental premise that we can create a model for...
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Making the Most of Your Time: A Monthly Meeting With Your Future Self

Uncategorized Feb 09, 2022

Most of us with a calling to make the world a better place have a fairly easy time coming up with a daily to-do list.  But often we struggle much more to get clarity about how we really want to focus ourselves on a month to month basis.

This post is about a simple structure for taking as little as 30 minutes per month to sit down and meet with your future self, reflecting on how best to maximize your joy and your impact in the month ahead.

Check out the video, download the monthly planning template and give your future self the gift of thoughtfully looking ahead.

A simple format for a monthly meeting with your future self


This Monthly Planning Session Complements Daily and Weekly Planning Sheets

This approach to monthly planning goes along with a system for daily and weekly planning that we have covered in other posts.

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Leading with Love

Uncategorized Feb 02, 2022

Love is a foundation for joy. And we all know we want to live in a more joyful world.  This post is all about how we can lead with love in our most important relationships--whether romantic relationships, family relationships or even with our fellow change agents, as we answer our call to make the world a better place.  

The video walks through a framework for distinguishing between 3 different levels of love and then shares six practical tools for leading with the highest level of love--abundant love--across all the areas of your life.


What level of love are you bringing to your most important relationships?

A great starting point is to assess what kind of love you are bringing to your most important relationships--are you coming from a self-oriented standpoint, a transactional standpoint or are you truly focused on doing whatever you can to help someone else flourish on their own terms?

  • Self-Seeking Love: I love you to the extent you meet my needs
  • ...
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Getting Good with Goal Setting: Reclaiming the Power of Goals, Planning and Metrics for Executing On Your Vision as a Change Agent

Uncategorized Jan 25, 2022

Many of us who have a vision to change the world have a complicated relationship with goals, strategic planning, metrics and milestones. 

On one hand, when you are going after complex systems change it doesn't always feel  credible to lay out a fully specified strategic plan years into the future.  And holding yourself accountable for delivering on metrics and milestones  can feel performative exercise, especially when funders are the ones calling the tune. 

On the other hand, no matter how deeply held your vision for a better world, it's nothing but a dream unless you are taking steps  to execute against that vision on a day to day basis.   

This post is about reclaiming a positive relationship with goals and strategic planning on your own terms as a social entrepreneur.  The video begins by  looking at what kinds of goals and plans are the best fit for different strategic contexts, and then shares three different systems for...

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The Ladder of Understanding: A Tool for Untangling Conflict and Building Shared Meaning

Uncategorized Jan 19, 2022

Conflict and misunderstanding too often leads to contempt.    

Sometimes our attempts to communicate with someone else break down because our deepest values are in conflict.  But in many cases, the root of the conflict is actually a misunderstanding that you can uncover and address using a tool called the ladder of understanding.  That's the focus of this post: using the ladder of understanding to improve  our communication with others.

Being an effective change agent in our increasingly divided world means having the tools to untangle conflict and misunderstanding.  


The Ladder of Understanding

This tool is inspired by the "Ladder of Inference" laid out in Chris Argyris's book Organization Learning, as further adapted by  Diana McClain Smith.

Three Steps for Using the Ladder of Understanding

  1. Figure out which rung you are on
  2. Evaluate your reasoning by walking back down the ladder, step by step until you get all the way back to...
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