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Considering Your Philanthropy Holistically

Philanthropist's Field Guide
Considering Your Philanthropy Holistically

While financial contributions are tremendously valuable, there are numerous ways to give back. The T’s of philanthropy refer to time, talent, treasure, ties, and testimony – and the most effective philanthropists deploy each of these assets throughout their giving journey. Each offers unique benefits that are valuable components of your philanthropy toolkit.

women in masks volunteering and unloading boxes from truck


To build a versatile charitable portfolio, it can be helpful to brainstorm ways to leverage each of the T’s effectively to accomplish your philanthropic goals. In less than an hour, a short process of self-reflection can help you identify your charitable assets, define priorities, and ultimately light your path forward. Here are some thought-starters for deploying each of the T’s into your philanthropic strategy:

  • Time 
    Your energy and physical presence are incredibly valuable resources. Volunteering at—or even simply attending—charity events demonstrates your support for a cause. If you are deeply committed and want to dedicate more of your time to a nonprofit organization, consider serving on the board or volunteering in another capacity.

  • Talent
    In some cases, lending your skills, talents, or expertise can be even more valuable than a cash contribution. If your time is limited, you can offer your assistance on an ad-hoc basis. If you have more availability, consider becoming a pro bono consultant or advisor, providing guidance and other help to your chosen organization as needed.

  • Treasure
    While money isn’t the only resource of value, it is an undeniably important asset for an organization to advance its mission. Your financial contributions—particularly unrestricted, general operating support—can help generate meaningful progress to a nonprofit and its social impact objective.

  • Ties
    If you have an extensive personal and professional network, you might find that making connections is among your most important philanthropic contributions. Introducing influential people with various skills and backgrounds can help ignite additional support and collaborations. Forging new relationships for a nonprofit can open the door for limitless possibilities for the organization’s growth and trajectory for impact.

  • Testimony
    Honoring the lived experiences of those facing hardships and bearing witness to their story is an often overlooked aspect of philanthropy. Sometimes referred to as ”truth-telling,” the T for testimony represents the value in acknowledging harsh realities in order to appreciate how much progress still needs to be made. Having shared experiences can be a powerful motivator in philanthropy, so philanthropists should seek to educate themselves and recruit others to support a cause by better understanding and then elevating the lived experiences of those they are seeking to help.

Why are the T’s important?

Social change cannot be achieved through monetary contributions alone; it requires a coalition of talented people working together to solve complex problems. As a philanthropist, your time, expertise, and network are invaluable assets that can empower others and mobilize social change. Applying a holistic approach to philanthropy that utilizes your time, expertise, financial capital, network, and personal experiences can amplify your impact.

How can I incorporate the T’s in my philanthropy?

As you craft your philanthropic strategy, consider what, in addition to or instead of financial capital, you can contribute to your chosen cause(s). You can evaluate the problem at hand, identify key needs, and determine what assets you can deploy to best meet those needs. Monetary support is not always the most necessary or effective solution to all social problems. In some situations, you can achieve a greater impact by offering your skills and expertise or connecting stakeholders with other members of your network.

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