Every year we capture valuable insights from donors who have given $1m or more through inspiring interviews with individuals, foundations and corporations. Drawing on the wealth of experience captured through these interviews, below are some headlines regarding advice they would give to others who are embarking on their philanthropy journey:

  • Be clear about your motivations for philanthropy.
    What do you hope to achieve? What are your goals?

  • Give to the causes and organisations you feel most passionate about. Your values, passions, interests or concerns should drive your choice of what you focus on.

  • Balance your heart and mind. Trust your instincts but do your research to consider the past and potential future impact of the organisations you may support.

  • Don't just write cheques. The more engaged you are with your philanthropy, the more enjoyable it will be and the greater your chances of success.

  • Take informed risks. Invest in organisations, projects or people you believe in. Even if they don't succeed, focus on lessons learnt.

  • Learn from others. Don't feel you need to reinvent the wheel, but rather build on the experiences and due diligence of other donors. Join one of the many networks of philanthropists.

  • Visit the organisations you support. This will help you understand the organisation, its work and the impact it makes.

  • Trust and respect are the two most important principles in philanthropy. Trust that the organisation you support is capable of delivering solutions. Respect the ways in which it puts your money to use, especially if you provide unrestricted funding.

  • Think about how you can best sustain your philanthropy for the longer term, perhaps by appointing specialist advisers, hiring professional staff or establishing an endowment.

  • Engage the next generation in shaping your philanthropy. It's a great way to learn about issues that excite or concern family members, and convey your family values.

  • Think about leveraging all your resources to create change. Use your skills, expertise and networks. If you have an endowment, consider responsible investment and social investment.

  • Commit for the long haul. Making a lasting difference can require patience and persistence, but can be immensely satisfying. You may not see the full impact of your philanthropy during your lifetime, but the journey will no doubt be a fascinating one.


Attracting a million dollar gift is not only a difficult task but also an enormous responsibility for an organisation. We asked charities to share their thoughts about receiving donations worth $1m or more.

  • Dream big about what you would do with a million dollar investment, and then have a clear and easy way to communicate this strategic vision.

  • Don't be afraid to spend money on fundraising.
    Many charities are reluctant to invest in this, but it pays off in the long term.

  • Give a lot of thought in advance to how you will acknowledge your major donors. Discuss with them if, and how, they want to be recognised.

  • Donors are people who possess assets and resources beyond money. Involve your donor in the charity and talk to them about their interests.

  • Extend relationships with donors beyond the fundraising team. Philanthropists will often want to meet senior management as well as people on the front line of the charity.

  • Planning and defined objectives are part of what earns you the right to be considered for large gifts.You need to have a plan for the future, whether it will take many gifts over a decade or a single $1m donation to realise it.

  • Develop a relationship and build trust with the potential donor. Be patient and realistic about how long it will take to cultivate a donation of this size.

  • Identifying potential donors is about relationships, not cold calling. If someone is willing to refer you and leverage their personal network for you, that's a huge endorsement.

  • Set out clear expectations on both sides at the start of a partnership; the best relationships are founded on honesty and genuine synergy between charity and supporter. Delivering what you say you will is, of course, vitally important.

  • Be an expert in your field. Donors need to know that you have a good intellectual understanding of the issue or problem at hand, and a good understanding of how you are going to attack that issue.