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Tapping Ambitious Philanthropy

2 August 2018 at 7:30 am
Andrew Cairns
Community Sector Banking CEO Andrew Cairns offers his advice for not for profits to win over audacious philanthropists.

Andrew Cairns | 2 August 2018 at 7:30 am


Tapping Ambitious Philanthropy
2 August 2018 at 7:30 am

Community Sector Banking CEO Andrew Cairns offers his advice for not for profits to win over audacious philanthropists.

Private philanthropists have played a key role in humanity’s social-impact success stories. Their support for not for profits can be the difference between doing a little good – and doing a lot. Little wonder more not for profits want to court such support.

Among today’s benefactors are a crop of highly ambitious philanthropists. Think Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest who donated Australia’s biggest single donation of $400 million to eradicate slavery, among other causes.

But cracking the world of private giving is hard.

This is my advice for not for profits to win over audacious philanthropists.

Build a full understanding of the problem

A key step to win over a philanthropist is to fully explain the problem you want to address. You need to look beyond symptoms, such as children dropping out of school, to root causes. What forces perpetuate the problem? Are children the only ones affected? The entire ecosystem and all stakeholders should be considered – from policy to the home, community, environment and beyond. Once fully scoped, the problem can be framed to attract support.

Set winnable milestones

When you’re aiming for a big goal, getting started can be hard. Behavioural science teaches us it’s human nature to balk. To secure philanthropic support for a major project, not for profits need to clearly map out winnable milestones. Breaking a big project into parts makes it more manageable. Moreover, setting measurable milestones will provide assurance that not only is change achievable, you will be able to see if you’re on track for success.

Design scalable approaches

Ambitious philanthropists think big. They don’t just want to give to homeless shelters, they want to end homelessness. Appealing projects in their eyes are scalable, so they can help not just small numbers of an affected group, but everyone – regardless of state, country, colour or class. Not for profits with small budgets can test a solution on a small group to ensure it’s viable before courting support with a pitch that shows how it can be scaled.

Build a relationship

From the initial “thank you” to the final acquittal, it’s important to maintain regular communications with the donor. Here, you can share the successes and the struggles and invite conversation. It’s also important to explore ways of building on the relationship that involve other potential partners and build long-term sustainability.

Measure and embrace adjustments

Even before securing philanthropic support, it’s important to map how you will measure success.

Not for profits need to look beyond project outputs to outcomes – don’t just count the number of hours of support for at-risk children, look at children who stay in school, their academic outcomes, health and wellbeing. Lastly, if the desired outcomes aren’t being achieved, make it clear that you will and can embrace adjustments to set things right.

Ultimately, many of the challenges Australia faces today are large-scale and complex. Problems like domestic violence and homelessness demand major long-term funding to solve. A proposal designed to win over an ambitious philanthropist will be equally attractive to others you need to collaborate with – from other donors, to government and community.

For more information see:

Andrew Cairns  |  @ProBonoNews

Andrew Cairns is the CEO of Haven Home Safe, a homelessness organisation that specialises in social and affordable housing solutions. Prior to joining Haven, he held several senior management roles including more than 19 years with the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group and almost five years as CEO of Community Sector Banking.

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