Philanthropic Journey

Updated: Jul 29

I just read a wonderful article by Maryann Fernandez in preparation for a conference call on Planning a Philanthropic Trip. Fernandez is Founder & President of Philanthropy Indaba. She poses 6 questions to ask before planning a philanthropic journey. Her view is that most of the press on the topic of combining philanthropy and travel is coming out of the travel industry which often fails to ask some important questions.


Fernandez gives a nice definition for a philanthropic journey, “as one that starts with the intent to visit a project(s) and explore critical issues on the ground, and devotes part of a longer holiday or the entire trip towards that goal. A philanthropic journey is an intensive, focused learning experience on all dimensions of giving. It stimulates a participants needs for uniting the needs of the heart, the head. and the hands.”


Here are the six questions she poses to start a more substantive conversation:


1. How complex is my philanthropy and what level of commitment am I looking to make?

Before planning it is important to look inward. Whether the person is thinking about expanding their philanthropy or a specific area of interest, or wanting to expose family members to the grantmaking process; a philanthropic journey can be worthwhile. A good reminder is that when visiting, be respectful of the nonprofit”s time and resources. A visit should be “an expression of their serious concern of the critical issues on the ground.” 2. What do I want out of this trip?

Fernandez offers two main reasons why people chose to go on this type of trip: to better understand the dynamics on the ground and to identify and vet organizations.

3. Who should come along?

There are 3 critical questions: who is involved in decision-making? what are the ages of the people attending and are the activitiesage-appropriate? do you have an advisor who can bring expertise?

4. How do I choose the kind of trip I want to take?

Simply there are three basic types of trips: visit a single nonprofit organization; go on a group trip (a good option if you are just beginning); plan a customized trip.

5. How do I find the right service provider or consultant to develop my trip?

The answers to the previous questions will dictate the decision on this question. No matter the direction chosen, you generally get out of it what you put into it. When evaluating a service provider look at her experience, expertise and cost associated with vetting organizations and properly postioning all parties involved in the trip.

6. What kind of activities will help make my trip more meaningful and help guide philanthropic decision-making?

Fernandez gives three suggestions to get the most out of such a trip: guided discussions on the ground – no time like the present to talk about what you have seen and ask questions; bringing and/or distributing supplies – be careful with this one; service opportunities – rolling up your sleeves allows for a deeper level of experience.


Having gone on philanthropic journeys I can tell you they are life-changing. I am really looking forward to the day when my youngest babe is age-appropriate so we can explore the world and issues important to us together!


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