- Once you have been funding projects for a while, you should take time to assess whether you’re achieving what you expected.
- Reviewing objectives may be about ensuring your giving evolves to match your changing preferences, but it is also about considering whether a revised giving strategy could have a greater impact on the areas you care about.
Most people have charitable objectives for their giving, eg. to support dementia research, to provide holidays for terminally ill children, to increase literacy levels within inner-city schools. You may also have personal objectives related to: your family, eg. ensuring the family meets three times per year; to the time and skills you want to donate; or corporate objectives related to your company profile or employee involvement.
Why review objectives
You may want to review your objectives in order to make changes to your giving according to a number of different circumstances, for instance:
- a sudden increase in your wealth may encourage you to scale up your giving;
- certain events in your personal life might change your priorities so that different causes become important to you; or
- new circumstances may lead you to devote more time and non-financial resources to giving, for example as you step away from the day-to-day running of your business.
You may also want to review your objectives in response to changes in the external environment, for instance changes in the economic climate, other funding programmes or government priorities.
However even if circumstances don’t change you should review your objectives periodically. You may want to review what has worked well with your giving and what you have learnt. You should understand what your giving is achieving, and whether your current strategy is accomplishing the desired impact on the issues you care about.
As a donor it is important to identify which organisations really help you deliver on your goals. Reviewing objectives may therefore be about checking that there is close alignment between your objectives and those of the charities you support. An organisation may be doing a great job in an important area, but if their focus is different to yours you may choose to devote your resources to an organisation that is a closer match.
It’s also a learning process for both yourself and the charity you’re supporting about which interventions have greatest impact. If you’re supporting unproven innovative ideas, it is vital to build in review assessments of whether this is successful. You may find there are things that the charity could do differently, but you may also identify ways you could better support them as a funder, for example providing greater stability through multi-year funding, or perhaps by providing professional expertise alongside financial support.
Finally it’s an opportunity to recognise when your money, time and expertise have contributed to really good results. Reviewing your objectives creates a space to feel proud of your achievements, for both yourself and the organisations you fund.
How do you review objectives?
To assess your success in meeting your objectives, you will need to review information provided to you by the organisations you fund. You might want to do this on a rolling basis for each round of grants made, or set aside time to assess the impact your funding has had every two to three years (see charity impact evaluation). Along with reviewing the impact of the specific grants, you may also want to talk to or survey your grantees to understand how you can improve your funding and support. You should also look more broadly at the context you are working in to see whether anything has changed and how you should respond to this. Finally you should assess what you have learnt from your funding and interactions with charities.
Learning from your review
Once you understand the impact of your grants and overall funding, you will be able to assess whether you are meeting your initial objectives. It may be that you need to alter the type of support you are giving in order to better meet your objectives. As an example, if one of your objectives was to help improve your local community, there may have been a change in needs to address within your local area—and you might want consider funding different types of projects, perhaps those specifically getting people back to work during economic downturns.
As well as adjusting your funding to meet objectives, you may also want to alter your objectives depending on what you’ve learnt from your giving. Some donors realise that the donations they have enjoyed the most are those where they’ve been able to see a tangible impact, and they may make one of their objectives to only fund organisations that they can regularly visit and engage with.