Local Philanthropy: Getting Started

You want to do good by giving money, time or expertise to support local people or local organizations. But you are not quite sure where to start, what to give, to whom and how so as to create the maximum impact. There are many opportunities for philanthropists to play a role in their local community. Below are some suggestions, laid out in “Inspiring Local Philanthropy”- a report by Coutts Philanthropy Service (Autumn 2011, UK). [The full report is available online at: http://www.coutts.com/files/pdf/COU91473_Coutts_PhilanthropyReport_v17-online3.pdf.]

Finding Your Focus

The choices you make about where and how to give is often driven by a combination of three key factors:

1) your values, passions and interests;

2) your available resources (Time, Talent and/or Treasure); and

3) local challenges and/or opportunities.

One of the best ways for individuals to get to know the communities they care about is by walking or driving around the neighborhood, visiting community centers and local NPOs, talking to community leaders, neighbors and charity workers and reading the local press or websites…

Understanding Your Options

Once you identify the focus for your support, you will then need to determine how you want to give. The figure below illustrates the diverse ways in which philanthropists might go about supporting the causes that matter to them, indicating the time- intensity that might be involved.


            Set up an organization
        Become a venture philanthropist
      Get involved through your business
    Co-fund with a local grantmaker
  Give with others – peer networks, giving circle and local campaigns
  Provide funding directly to local groups and social enterprises
Fund through a local Community Foundation





Questions philanthropists might consider:

  • How do I find out what are the most pressing challenges or opportunities in the communities I care about?
  • How and where might my support make a difference?
  • How do I find effective organizations to support?
  • How can my support lead to sustained change?
  • How might I measure success?
  • Where can I find support or resources to answer these questions?
Posted in For Donors, Tips

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