Developing a Family Charitable Mission Statement
Givers often support a wide variety of charitable causes for many different reasons -- compelling human needs, recognition or peer pressure to name a few. At some point, every giver asks herself or himself the question, "What have I accomplished with all my giving?" Evaluation is a frustrating exercise, because there are relatively few charitable needs that can be solved by one donor.
So, consider beginning with the end in mind. A family charitable mission statement will provide you with a measurement by which you can judge the merits of each funding request. The mission statement also provides a reference point through time so you can evaluate how well you have accomplished the mission, given your philanthropic budget. While you may not be able to measure the impact of your grants on homelessness, hunger or health, you can certainly review the body of your life's philanthropy to measure how effectively you have adhered to your stated mission.
For donors who use community foundations, their fund agreement probably includes a statement of purpose that can serve as the family mission statement. Some foundations, like the one I work for, make available ongoing analysis of grantmaking by grant category, as well as staff experts who can discuss with givers the various grantees serving a particular charitable cause. Annual family meetings are also a useful way to provide all family members a way to share values and to discuss how best to accomplish the family charitable mission. Sometimes in these annual evaluations the family alters its mission, which is a normal evolutionary process.
Giving is an act of faith. Givers believe that while they may only be able to make a small dent in our community's, country's or world's problems, the sum of our good acts will make a larger difference. If more people would be strategic in their approaches, then the outcome of their individual and collective efforts might be more effective.