The Professional's Guide to Strategic Philanthropy
Cliff Note 3: How To Do It
The third major family of decisions is the “How” family.Strategies, theories of change, tactics, logic models, action steps, and budgets are all elements which provide a response to the “How To Do It” question.Generally, foundations and donors have proven better at achieving answers to the “How” question rather than to the “What” or “Why” questions. There is a powerful relationship between "What" and "How"."What" is the target and "How" is the way to reach the target.
The title "strategy" and the detailed definition as a "theory of change" is less important than the concept.If the organization acts in one way, its strategy assumes that an expected result or outcome will be produced.
Strategies, theories of change, tactics, logic models, action steps, and budgets fall within the “How” family of decisions. Strategies are the theories of change or the reasoning that describes the underlying assumptions of how the mission or a particular goal within the mission will be achieved. A goal is a statement of what should be done as a major measurable sub-set of the mission. An objective is a very specific, unambiguous, measurable, time-limited statement of what should be done as a sub-set of a goal. Tactics describe how a particular objective will be attained through the detailed sum of inputs, activities, and outputs (also known as a "logic model"). An action step is a very specific, unambiguous, measurable, time-limited statement of what should be done as a sub-set of an objective tied to a clear budget for that step.
It is essential that the literature be reviewed in light of the expected outcome very early in the process.The root cause of the problem, its magnitude, severity, and preventability should be well researched to confirm the necessity of the mission and that the issue is important enough to require attention. The literature should contain evidence that the specific interventions and policies being considered are likely to succeed.Gathering evidence about the best way to conduct a particular program is hard work but essential to answering the "How" question.Careful study should also identify the necessary conditions for success, potential collaborators, and community assets which can be leveraged by the foundation.
Many funders prefer to avoid declaring their specific intentions at the beginning due to an inexplicable fear of failure, to dodge accountability, or because it is much more difficult to stay the course over time.It could be that they view philanthropic spending as requiring a less business-like approach which could account for a cavalier view of the money from a grantee perspective.In any event, Supercharged Giving proposes that a more strategic approach to the "How" question is a more effective approach.
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