4 Steps to Create a Plan for your Philanthropy

Judy Saxe, AEP®, CAP®
February 11, 2020

Interested in making your philanthropy more strategic?

This is the second blog in a three-part series that focuses on effective philanthropy.
Read Part 1: 3 Steps to Begin (or Continue) Philanthropy

Developing a path to achieving a philanthropic goal can be challenging. The approach must be clear enough to be actionable, yet flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances. To determine your philanthropic path, it’s important for you and your family to articulate what you want your shared philanthropic endeavor to look like, and map out the steps to get there. The process involves four distinct steps, which can serve as your family’s compass, guiding your actions as you work together toward a shared vision.

1. Identify your cause

First, it’s important to determine the core cause you and your family seek to gather around. Supporting a specific cause allows you to focus your resources, which include both time and money. To decide which cause is most important to you, helpful steps may include:

  • Spend time thinking about what is important to you and what moves you
  • Identify a cause that is personal to you and your family
  • Imagine what success in “moving the needle” on your cause will look like in the future

2. Engage your family

Philanthropy can be an ideal way to bring your family together around a common interest or goal. When discussing your philanthropic goals with your family, it’s important to remember:

  • Shared teachings, messages and values all serve as a strong framework for engaging your family to unite in the desire to help a cause
  • Diversity of personality and talent of various family members can make the philanthropic outcome more effective

3. Determine a plan

Once you’ve determined your cause, the next step is sitting down and mapping out a plan. Steps to get you from where you are currently to where you want to be often include:

  • Develop a plan with action items and treat your philanthropic mission like a business
  • Understand that implementation will probably involve more than just money
  • Leverage other organizations
  • Identify where your family’s talents and strengths can help make a plan come alive

4. Create a lasting legacy

Finally, you may wish to consider what you’d like your philanthropic endeavor to look like when you are no longer able to shepherd it. If you’d like your family to be able to carry on your work, taking the following steps now may help them be prepared to do that:

  • Determine how long you wish to support your cause and who can contribute their time and money
  • Identify the best way to fund your philanthropic endeavor—for example, cash, securities or real estate—and whether you need short-term and/or long-term funding
  • For long-term funding, consider planning strategies like donor-advised funds, private foundations, and trusts

Developing your strategic philanthropy approach may take time and often involves several iterations before determining a cause, and method for supporting that cause. If you’re unsure where to get started, your CIBC Private Wealth advisor or wealth strategist can help you illuminate your family’s values and interests, so you can better focus your charitable efforts.

For more information on strategic philanthropy, visit our Effective Philanthropy resource page.


Judith Saxe is the director of research and education for wealth strategies and a senior wealth strategist at CIBC Private Wealth Management.