Giving While Living

Updated: Jul 29

Atlantic Philanthropies recently released a fantastic report called, “Turning Passion Into Action: Giving While Living.” The report includes profiles of 11, diverse philanthropists who are actively engaged and giving generously during their lifetimes. The report is informative and inspiring. I am intrigued by this notion that there is a lot of satisfaction that can be gained from overseeing the gifting of your philanthropic assets. Giving while living is at the heart of The Giving Pledge. The Gateses and Buffet believe that today’s wealth should solve today’s problems. I really like Atlantic Philanthropies report because it makes no judgment, but does provide some practical advice when setting out on the journey to wind down a foundation or gift a large sum of money in a finite period. The report can be accessed at their website.


The publication includes some steps for donors interested in this approach:

Determine what you have a passion to support What cause(s) resonates with you? Social justice? Access to health care? Conservation? Women’s rights? Poverty? Education?

Decide what problem(s) you want to focus on What specific issue or problem do you want to tackle? What resources can you bring to the issue?

Do your research Who else is working in this field? What are the successful and unsuccessful models? Are there existing organisations to partner with to reach your goals? Where can you most effectively intervene in an issue?

Select your geographic area(s) of concentration What area do you want to target? Local? National? Global?

Consider your level of resources, interest, risk tolerance and desire for involvement Will you give both time and money? How much? What are your goals and expected results? Time frame? What are your core competencies that you are willing to put to work?

Think about how you want to give What motivates you to give? Do you want to give anonymously, or play a visible role in your giving? Do you like to work in cooperation with other donors?

Consider what results you hope for How do you define and assess success? In the short term? Long term? Do you want to invest in formal evaluations to measure progress? Are you willing to accept setbacks and even failure on some projects you support?

Develop a plan Will you devise a plan yourself, or do you need to hire someone to do it? What resources do you need beyond what you plan to give? How will you get them? Will a foundation work best for you, or would some other entity be better?

Join networks What questions do you want to ask experienced philanthropists? What other groups are supporting your area of interest? What conferences would be most helpful to attend?


If you are serious about this approach its a worthwhile read before answering these questions. I also recommend reading John Hunting and The Beldon Fund’s report called “Spending Out.” This too can be accessed via their website.


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