Philanthropic Advising: Three Individual Donors

The following three case studies are based on actual client projects, however names, places and other identifying details have been changed to protect our clients’ privacy.

Challenge #1: How to Focus Individual Giving

Michael, who founded and heads a highly regarded venture capital firm, was familiar with the philanthropic world and had supported projects through his family’s foundation, but he was struggling with how to anonymously donate his own personal wealth, preferably within his lifetime. He was drawn strongly to international relief work and interfaith understanding, but was overwhelmed by the number of potential organizations working on these issues. He also had questions about the effectiveness of these various organizations. Michael retained TKG to evaluate how and where his financial giving could have the largest impact. He had questions about several grantees he had supported in the past, including their organization capacity, reputation in the field, program growth and more. He feared that one organization had a management problem and asked TKG to investigate. He also requested that TKG present him with several proposals for new organizations and projects to support.


TKG met with Michael and worked with him to clearly articulate his values and interests in order to bring focus to his personal giving mission and goals. TKG then researched current issues, trends, pressing needs, and leading organizations working in Michael’s well-defined field of interests. TKG also evaluated the impact of prior funds he had donated and assessed the work and overall organizational health of former grantees. Based on this research, TKG prepared a report and multi-year giving strategy that highlighted the positive outcomes of Michael’s previous giving and also confirmed Michael’s concerns about one grantee organization that did not appear to be making the best use of his contributions. TKG continues to monitor the progress of this organization to help Michael determine whether he will continue with his support. Finally, TKG recommended a select number of new opportunities for Michael to add to his philanthropic portfolio, along with new approaches and charitable vehicles for giving to his top choices in significant ways. To date, Michael has decided to donate to at least one of the newly recommended funding options and has asked TKG to help him develop two additional long-term philanthropic interests: preservation and university education.

Challenge #2: How and Where to Establish a Memorial Endowment?

Amanda wanted to endow a museum curatorship or university professorship in memory of her grandmother, a distinguished art historian. Amanda was being aggressively courted by several distinguished museums and universities across the country, and she wondered which institution came closest to advancing the particular field of art history in the way her grandmother would have wished.


TKG conducted a national review of the field of art history in which Amanda’s grandmother had distinguished herself – examining educational opportunities, looking at organizations funding related fieldwork, and surveying fellowship opportunities related to the field. At the height of her career, Amanda’s grandmother had been affiliated with a particular university; however, this institution no longer had the strongest department and was no longer the vanguard in the field. After speaking with Amanda, TKG identified three alternative museums and universities that were now in the forefront of the field. We advised her on how to negotiate an agreement with the institution that proposed to establish a memorial endowment fund that best represented the interests of her grandmother providing new opportunities for talented young curators and scholars and, in doing so, commemorated her grandmother’s accomplishments. Amanda provided the funds necessary to establish an endowment fund at her chosen institution and, nearly four years later, she continues to be involved with it.

Challenge #3: How to Make the Most of Nonprofit Board Service? 

Jim wanted to contribute his time, professional experience, and resources as a nonprofit Board member, but needed help evaluating which one would be the best fit. Recognizing that organizations would view him as a desirable Board candidate because of his giving potential alone, he wanted to learn more about the organizations he was considering joining, including their current programs areas, their state of governance, and their overall financial health before making it known that he was available. He also wanted to join a Board that would not view him as a passive donor, but would welcome his active participation and leadership of the organization.


Through its extensive nonprofit network, TKG discretely reviewed nine leading performing arts organizations in Jim’s field of interest that were actively seeking new Board candidates. TKG investigated each organization in depth, looking at their program areas, service to the public, management, financial reports, governance, and board dynamics. In conducting these reviews, TKG looked for organizations at interesting transitional points a change in leadership, the start of a capital campaign, the launch of new program initiatives, the celebration of a major anniversary to assess which organization would provide Jim with unique opportunities, and where his expertise would truly have an impact. Three organizations were presented for Jim’s consideration. He joined two of these Boards where he not only provided significant financial support, but also was actively engaged and worked to grow the organizations to their next levels. Jim has told TKG how pleased he was with the Board recommendations, which he described as perceptively right on with my interests and personal values a perfect fit. He also noted that he was very impressed with the thoroughness of TKG’s due diligence.