For Philanthropists Wanting to Maximize Their Positive Impact in Ways That Reflect Their Passion
You don’t have to be uber-wealthy to have Legacy Projects. Wanting to be a positive influence in the world is a fundamental value among people of good will. Legacy might be about having meaningful impact that continues beyond our lifetime, but legacy’s foundation focuses on what we do during our lives. For some, that’s about setting aside a portion of our estate to be utilized by our favorite causes after our death. For most of us, though, it’s about our donating time, energy, and/or money during our lives in ways that make an immediate difference and might have an enduring impact.
A Legacy Project is a focused way of having positive impact in areas that are most aligned with the purposes and causes about which we most care. Ideal Legacy Projects live at the intersection of what’s truly important to the legacy creator and where underserved individuals and/or causes can most benefit from the legacy creator’s chosen gift(s). This means you’ll probably feel the most fulfilled if the Legacy Project(s) you select enable you to make a meaningful difference by having positive impact in ways that are truly important to you, with those who can most benefit from the assistance you’re passionate about providing.
The first logical question to ask yourself is this: How can I best identify Legacy Projects that accomplish all this?
Legacy Project Selection
To start identifying a Legacy Project that would rock your world, consider three starter questions for identifying your best Legacy Project Candidates:
- What’s your cause?
- Who will you help?
- How will you help?
As you consider your answers to those questions, keep these two dimensions in mind:
- Selecting: Of all the Legacy Projects you could devote yourself to, which ones might best enable you to express heartfelt portions of your life purpose? Of these possibilities, which best combine the strongest pull for you with the biggest unmet need in the philanthropic marketplace?
- Providing: What form(s) of Legacy Project assistance would most delight you to provide? The gift of time, expertise, resources, and/or money? How much of which? Starting now or after you (and/or your spouse) die?
Once you’ve identified your best Legacy Project Candidates through your unique answers to the questions above, here are four things to evaluate that can help you decide the one(s) you’ll feel the most sustainably impassioned about, and fulfilled by, supporting:
- Alignment: How deeply aligned with your sense of life purpose is this Legacy Project Candidate? How much potential does this Legacy Project Candidate have to fill important needs of individuals or groups who are important to you? The clearer you are about your life purpose, the clearer your answers will be!
- Needs: To what extent are these important needs being unmet, either at all or in specific locations that are important to you? Or, to what extent are these not being met at the quality level that you know is important for the cause to succeed?
- Gaps: To what extent do you feel excited about filling the gaps that will make the biggest difference in filling these unmet needs? Possible gaps include insufficient visibility, availability, affordability, and/or implementation effectiveness.
- Means: To what extent is the way you most want to help aligned with the help that is most needed (your time, your expertise, resources at your disposal, or your money)?
Why are these considerations important? Because Legacy Projects are about making the biggest possible difference with the individuals, groups, needs, and/or causes with which your life purpose calls you to have the most positive impact.
Master Planning Your Legacy Project
Many people have difficulty using the above criteria to help them select and implement their Legacy Project(s) because they don’t know how to approach Legacy Planning with an entrepreneurial mindset. If that’s you, you might benefit from consulting with an entrepreneur development specialist who understands legacy creation. But before you decide whether doing that would be worthwhile for you, contemplate the following three entrepreneurial Legacy Planning dimensions.
1. Connect Your Life Purpose with Your Legacy
Entrepreneurs find the motivation to stick with their projects through thick and thin by selecting a business that enables them to express significant portions of their life purpose.
There are many ways to express our life purpose, including making a profit. Another is through Legacy Projects. It’s even possible to combine the two. The clearer you are about your life purpose, the easier it will be for you to hone in on the portions of it that you feel most called to express through Legacy Projects.
2. Connect Your Legacy with Your Life Energy Management
Implementing your chosen Legacy Project requires just as much attention to Life Energy Management as is required of entrepreneurs.
Imagine a pie chart that illustrates your life energy allocations. Each of us has only 100% of our life energy to distribute among each slice of life that’s important to us. Examples of life energy slices include self-care, personal/spiritual development, cherished relationships, fun/adventures, monetization, and service. What are the pie slices in your own personal Life Energy Pie Chart?
The greater our healthy self-esteem, and the more psychologically developed we become, the more devoted we are to optimizing the fruitfulness of each of our life energy pie slices. Optimizing your monetization pie slice is particularly crucial because this funds the rest of your life energy pie. Optimizing your service pie slice is about maximizing your effectiveness in having the positive impact in the world that your sense of purpose requires during your lifetime and perhaps beyond.
There are essentially three pathways though which you can gift your service pie slice: your time, your expertise, and/or your money. When done well, any of these pathways can create a deeply satisfying legacy, individually or in combination.
A particularly powerful way to optimize your legacy through your own unique combination of gifting your time, expertise and/or money is to focus on 4 Keys to Optimal Legacy: purpose refinement, strategy development, tactics selection, and tactics implementation. Legacy Planning addresses all four of these keys in a fully integrated way.
3. Do a Needs Assessment with Your Legacy Project Candidates
Just as entrepreneurs find and fill unmet or insufficiently met needs in marketplaces, philanthropists find and fill unmet or insufficiently met needs in underserved groups that are thirsty for the kinds of service that would rock the philanthropist’s world to provide. The best Legacy Projects reduce or eliminate barriers that prevent that need from being filled.
Here are four things to consider when doing a needs assessment regarding your Legacy Project candidates.
- Absent: These needs aren’t being filled for this target group by any for-profits, nonprofits, or philanthropic projects.
- Present, But Not Vision Aligned: These needs are being filled to some extent, but not in a way that’s sufficiently aligned with your legacy vision for you to want to support those particular projects.
- Vision Aligned, But Not Optimized: These needs are being filled in a way that is highly aligned with your legacy vision, but aren’t optimized because the organizations delivering these services are missing talent deficits that you can provide or fund.
- Vision Optimized, But Not Financially Optimized: These needs are being filled in an optimized way that reflects your legacy vision, but doing this on a broader scale costs more to provide than that organization can reasonably afford without additional financial assistance.
Here’s a line from the late David Carradine’s classic Kung Fu TV series from decades ago: “Seek not to know the answers, but rather to understand the questions.” I hope that this article has illuminated some new questions that can help you select and succeed with your ideal Legacy project(s). Feel free to get in touch if you would like to explore the possibility of having me assist you in developing your Legacy Plan using an entrepreneurial mindset.
Dr. David Gruder is a multi-award-winning clinical and organizational development psychologist specializing in culture and business psychology, bringing the wisdom of psychology and entrepreneurship to nonprofits and for-profits. Speaker, trainer and trusted advisor, he was the founding president of a thriving international nonprofit, is on the core faculty for the California Institute for Human Science, and is Co-Head of Faculty for CEO Space International. www.DrGruder.com
This article is reprinted from the Legacy Special Edition of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!
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