Regardless of one’s experience level or intended purpose, philanthropic activity is a noble pathway; it not only benefits the welfare of others, it can also create long-lasting relationships that ensure growth and success for years to come. 

That said, many aspiring philanthropists, though well-intentioned, often make avoidable mistakes that can quickly jeopardize their goals. To help tease out potential pitfalls before they can occur, here are ways to bypass several of the most common philanthropy mistakes. 

Do not overcomplicate (or oversimplify)

Philanthropy can be a complex process — especially for the uninitiated — but that does not mean it has to be complicated. Often, new philanthropists make simple early tasks complex instead of vice versa, creating undue disorganization and frustration before their initiatives can take shape. The easiest way to avoid this mistake is to commit to a basic, yet lastingly relevant mentality: “is this approach really going to provide benefit for our operation?” and if so, “what is the simplest way we can accomplish our objectives?”

This tactic in mind, remember that simplification is beneficial to a fault; cutting corners and shirking responsibility will only lead to the same undesirable outcome, so be sure to find a happy medium between baseless chaos and incomplete work. 

Seize opportunity

It may seem logical to let philanthropic endeavors play out at their own pace, with those involved waiting around to see what happens rather than spurring next steps. That said, like simplification, this approach is only constructive in moderation. Philanthropists should be prepared in advance, but they also need to act quickly to avoid missing additional opportunities to help; they can always hone and adapt their strategy along the way. This prioritization approach may seem harrowing at first, but, as Kris Putnam-Walkerly observes, it has become vital in a COVID-altered world demanding rapid adaptation and fluidity.

Maintain perspective

Amidst a hectic and uncertain pandemic landscape, it can be easy to succumb to poor modes of thinking — in some cases, to the point of “delusional altruism,” which essentially contradicts the basic tenets of proper philanthropy. That said, even though success is becoming contingent upon the quick pacing outlined in the previous section, it is important to take inventory as much as possible along the way, auditing your approach so it remains reflective of your best intentions and untouched by the influence of existential fear. 

Perspective remains crucial even after the project or initiative has concluded; be sure to remain open to feedback, learn from mistakes, and ultimately fine-tune your plan for future involvement. Self-awareness, in this regard, is perhaps the biggest key to genuine impact.