Clarifying Your Philanthropic Purpose

A vitally important step in safeguarding donor intent is defining and clarifying your mission statement.



The strongest mission statements discuss your values and principles. You might start with these questions:

  • What are the ideas, traditions, persons, events, and circumstances that shaped you as a person? How are they reflected in the personal and professional choices you have made in your life?
  • What experience have you had with charitable giving and what has given you the most satisfaction?  What has disappointed you?
  • Why are you establishing a philanthropic entity now?  What good are you trying to achieve? What problems do you want to address? Are you working to improve society in general, help a specific segment of the population, benefit a certain geographic area, or support a particular institution?
  • Do you want your faith to be reflected in your philanthropy? If so, how?
  • Is family involvement in your philanthropy important to you? If so, then carefully spell out who will be involved and what role(s) they will play.
  • Are there philanthropists whom you admire? On what grounds?  Are there nonprofit leaders you admire? Why?
  • What are the biggest mistakes you see in philanthropy? How will you avoid repeating them?
  • What values do you want to form the basis for your philanthropy? What steps can you take to ensure that others understand and honor those values?
  • Are there ideas, institutions, and places that you will not support?  “Your mission statement should have negative covenants as well as positive covenants,” advises philanthropy consultant Al Mueller.