Making Change Happen: Creating an Outcome-Based Strategy

Effective philanthropy is not wishful thinking with a budget, nor is it a pastime for wealthy people who seek a sense of service simply by writing checks. On the contrary, effective philanthropy is about the thoughtful creation of something new in the world.

It harnesses rigor and strategy—as well as commitment and strength of heart—to build a practical path from donors’ ambitions to their desired impact. It starts with a philanthropist’s values and motivations, and moves through the careful, well-researched selection of appropriate goals until it produces its core element—a giving strategy. This strategy is hugely important because it dictates how a philanthropic investment will actually make change happen.

Many in philanthropy use the term “theory of change” to describe this planning and evaluation process. But for this guide, part of the Philanthropy Roadmap series, the donor’s journey is far more important than an industry’s jargon.

The key point here is that planning for this journey starts by identifying the destination. In other words, donors create their giving strategy by clearly stating the outcomes they want to see. Then donors identify the specific actions that they believe will produce those outcomes.

You will find outlined here a process that can help both experienced and emerging philanthropists. The goal is a functional model for creating social change, complete with plans for how to monitor the progress of the project.