Do you ever stop and think about your philanthropy (or your client’s) and wonder if you need help?  It can be hard to identify when we need to step outside ourselves and seek advice or guidance.  Giving is often one of those unfamiliar places where frankly you just don’t know what you don’t know.  It seems like it should be easy to give away time, money, or resources but as soon as you start doing it, you find that it becomes more and more challenging to do it well.   The deeper you get, the more you learn, and the more complex philanthropy can seem. Yet, alongside this deepening complexity is also a deeper yearning to truly have an impact.  Very few of us have received any formal training on what works, where to give, and most importantly how to really make a difference. This means it can be difficult to even recognize when we need help.

In order to help individuals and advisors identify when they need help, I have developed a list of questions people commonly ask when they need help with their philanthropy.  Help may come from a trusted advisor like SmarterGive, but it could also come from doing your own research or soliciting advice from friends and family.  We need outside help because we have a common goal of making our philanthropy more meaningful for ourselves and more impactful for those we are trying to help.  If you are asking yourself any of these questions or a client is asking them of you, it may be time to reach outside yourself and seek guidance to make your giving truly more impactful and more fulfilling.

Lack of purpose or intention

  1. I want to give to charity, but I want it to be meaningful and I just haven’t found the issues or place that I feel that strongly about.
  2. My philanthropy is not very focused, I give to a very wide range of organizations and issues when people ask or because they are always harassing me, not because I have intentionality.
  3. I get so many requests to give money, I am afraid to give because I’ll just get harassed. How do I say no?

Choosing a Charity

  1. I am going to give $X to charity this year, where should I give it (e.g., how do I choose a charity)?
  2. What are the important attributes you look for when choosing a charity?
  3. I want to be responsible and fully vet the organizations when I give, but I just don’t have the time.

Giving Across Generations

  1. I want to provide a legacy, how can I provide clarity around my intentions but still provide for future flexibility?
  2. What are some strategies for teaching my children/ grandchildren about philanthropy?


  1. I like the charities I give to, but I feel like I could be doing more, how can I make my dollar go further?
  2. I want to know more about any of the following: a philanthropic portfolio, impact investing, venture philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, being a good board member, a theory of change, etc. etc. etc.
  3. I want to meet the organizations I support and understand their work on the ground, who can facilitate this?


  1. How can I work with other donors to learn more and increase our leverage?
  2. I seem to be funding a lot of organizations in a particular area but a lot of their work seems redundant and uncoordinated, how do I address this?

Evaluation and Measurement

  1. I get the sense that the charities are doing good work, but how can I measure the impact of their work? How do I know for sure?
  2. How can I measure impact without creating undue burden on the organization?