Philanthropic support takes many forms. It can fund nonprofit programs that provide direct services to those in need; increase the capacity of systems so that programs can function more effectively and efficiently; fund research that underpins these programs; and support policy initiatives that are needed to sustain them. It can also back innovation with the potential for game-changing progress.
Many organizations employ several plays. For example, FreeFrom provides direct service to survivors of intimate partner violence and also advocates for changes in laws to protect them. Leading Men Fellowship enhances preschool learning through direct service, in addition to increasing educational capacity by recruiting and training teachers. Consortium for DEWATS Dissemination Society’s installation of DEWATS provides essential sanitation systems, is also the result of research and innovation, and serves as a proof point for potential government support.
Across the many social impact areas our team has analyzed, we find that philanthropic support typically falls within one of four categories. Like financial investment asset classes, these categories often reflect different levels of risk, time frames for results, and social impact return profiles, as illustrated in the table below. Participants in our High Impact Philanthropy Academy have found this table helpful in choosing opportunities to pursue and in recognizing the tradeoffs in those choices. Nonprofits have also found these guidelines helpful in prioritizing activities and managing funder expectations.