A Developmental Approach to Philanthropy

by Robert Hyfler, Ph.D

The chart below suggests five steps in the development of the Jewish philanthropist and the maturation of philanthropic foundations and grant making/funding entities. Attention to this ladder of development can lead to strategies to move along a path of communal engagement and can be a useful tool in assessing the current mindset of funders and potential funders. Note that the “virtue” in each step is often retained as the individual or philanthropic entity progresses to the next step.

  • Emotive Philanthropy: The individual gives to feel good or to express solidarity, reacting to the situation, the problem or the symptom begging for a solution. The act of giving is closure. “Legacy” gifts often fall under this category.
  • Impact Philanthropy: The individual or philanthropic entity insists on accountability in their giving, looking for results and measurements of success.
  • Strategic Philanthropy: The individual or philanthropic entity has a strategic focus in philanthropy; a clear understanding of what they are about and not about in their charitable behavior. They often adopt issues or challenges for long term focus and begin to move in their goals and aspirations from impact and deliverables to “solutions”.
  • Collaborative Philanthropy: The individual or philanthropic entity recognizes the value and utility in leveraging their funds with those of others; values the synergy and creativity of the collaborative process.
  • Systemic (owner) Philanthropy: The individual or philanthropic entity understands that the survival, health and growth of the institutional Jewish world is the platform on which philanthropic activities thrive and in which true solutions to challenges are found; were that system, its agencies and organizational structures, not to exist they would have to invent it. They develop an “ownership” interest in the survival of communal, institutional and agency Jewish life with all that entails.

Bob Hyfler is a Jewish philanthropic consultant and can be reached at Bobhyfler@comcast.net.