Do You Have a Philanthropic Budget?

By Hope Carlson on October 12, 2020

When you think about your charitable giving, how do you feel?  Are you excited and energized?  You may have a few core causes and organizations about which you’re especially passionate.  Does your actual giving line up with those passions?

Or are you pulled in different directions?  Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the vast needs out there or buffeted by various requests from philanthropic friends to give to the causes they support.

One solution is to create a Philanthropic Budget.  This can help you be more strategic about your philanthropy.  It makes it easier to prioritize the various donation requests you receive, and it allows you to track your actual giving compared to what you defined as most important to you.

The categories in your Philanthropic Budget can be anything that resonates with you.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

Core Causes

These are the causes and organizations that are nearest and dearest to you.  They are the places you support year after year.  Usually, these are the ones that are easiest for you to budget; you know what your typical annual giving is and whether you would like to increase or decrease it.

Exploratory Philanthropy

This category is for new organizations or initiatives that spark your interest.  Some people think of this as the “risk capital” portion of their philanthropy.  Here is where you can support new places, getting to know them and how they steward your time, talent, and treasure.

Responsive Philanthropy

The world is ever-changing, and needs evolve.  Responsive philanthropy is the category that you allocate to respond to the issues of the day.  Giving in response to natural disasters or recent news events can be included here.

Friends and Family Plan

Most of us have friends or family who ask us to support their favorite causes.  This is the category for the gala tickets or auction items you buy because your friends ask.  Here, too, you can categorize the 5k your nephew runs or the Girl Scout cookies you buy from your neighbor.


You might think of your Philanthropic Budget as a pie chart, assigning percentages to your giving.  Or you can start by assigning the dollars you plan to give or the hours you’ll volunteer.  Whatever design you choose, a Philanthropic Budget can add structure and strategy to your philanthropic efforts.


Do You Have a Philanthropic Budget?

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