Case for Philanthroinvesting

touchdownIt’s football season. The season when, after investing over two hours in front of the TV, we go crazy when one team makes some remarkable adjustment to its game plan and pulls out a win in the last minutes of the 4th quarter. Depending on whether our favored team won or lost, we collectively scratch our heads and wonder why the team waited to the last minute to make a difference!

Nonprofit financial managers also scratch their heads wondering why so many donors wait to the last minute, aka, end of tax year, to write that check.

If you’ve seen our website’s “If you believe in…” slideshow, you may have noticed that the final slide is labeled “…transformational giving”. The image is of a young woman on the edge of a lake, disturbing the water just enough to create outward ripples. It is a symbol for transformational giving – the kind of giving that not only transforms the giver in a spiritual way, but that also transforms the nonprofit receiving the gift because the gift itself is large enough or designed well enough to grow and sustain the charity’s mission over time.

An excellent example of transformational giving comes from Paul T. Penley, the director of research for philanthropic advisory firm Excellence in Giving. Penley calls it “philanthroinvestments – real opportunities for philanthropists to realize returns and then relinquish the benefits of those returns to charitable organizations they trust.”

Penley discusses the concept in the article Smart Gifts Keep on Giving – how a philanthropic investment of $600,000 is on track to more than quadruple, generating $2.5 million revenue from the original gift.

This investment is neither an impact investment (a socially responsible form of investing that creates measurable social or environmental impact alongside a financial return for the investor) because the financial returns do not come back to the investor; nor is it a normal grant or annual cash donation needed every year to run the same programs. The grant is, however, one that invests in a revenue-generating, job-creating project so that the organization doesn’t need additional grants to run its programs.

This model will not work for all charities (for example, it won’t work for disaster relief), but for most, it enables a gift to keep on giving and attracts high net worth charitable investors.

If this type of long term thinking fascinates you, inspires you, challenges you… or if you are a major gift or development officer, or you know someone who is, we’d like to lead the conversation about philanthroinvesting.