5 Point Plan To Discover Your Signature Cause(s)

Newbie philanthropist or simply searching for a more strategic approach to aligning your values with your giving? Read on for a 5 point plan to discover your signature cause(s) and a philanthropic approach tailored for you that will make you feel good about your giving (money, time or other in-kind resources).

 #1. What’s out there?

‘Doing philanthropy’ doesn’t really give any clue as to what this term encompasses. Step 1 will be some time out with a cup of coffee (or something a little stronger!) to browse an inspiring collection of philanthropy-related articles to showcase the diverse range of what’s possible (everything!) and the myriad ways of achieving this. Once you’ve read this, you’ll be fizzing with ideas and raring to go…

#2 Starting the conversation

You’ll do this by completing an online questionnaire.

For now, we need to start with a blank canvas. Firstly, it’s a good idea to gather some background information and ask some thought-provoking questions that will get you thinking in the right direction (for you). You’ll do this by completing an online questionnaire. The next step is the ‘Discovery Call’, a structured conversation (partly informed by your responses to your questionnaire, but soon moving beyond this) to start to tease out some of your thoughts for your particular brand of philanthropy and what signature cause(s) may complement this.

In this, we’ll explore:

  • Your values, passions, and interests
  • Resources you’d like to offer (finance, time, expertise or other resources and the amount of these) e.g. you may wish to support a signature cause that complements your business interests or something related to a personal
  • Scale of your input: e.g. a local project, a national network or a global cause
  • Type of project(s): e.g. supporting existing not-for-profits with core funding, developing digital assets, a seed corn funding pot for new start-ups…
  • Type of input: e.g. hands-on or behind-the-scenes

Expect to be challenged in a healthy way to really drill down into your thinking so that we develop your vision.

#3 The Innovators  

Building on the framework developed in Steps #1 and #2, we’ll now draw up a short list of 1-5 potential signature causes. This is where the magic really starts to happen; we’ll go out there and:

  • develop a current portfolio of what’s happening in the field (and where the help’s most needed)
  • find the key influencers and change makers
  • showcase those innovating to make a real difference (this may include examples of best practice working with the harder-to-reach groups)

#3 is delivered through a mixture of desktop research and conference calls (or face-to-face visits if desired/practical).

#4 Your Portfolio of Possibility

This will be your one-stop resource for all the treasure trove of information gathered to date. Set up in a spreadsheet, it will house an overview each of your signature causes. Included will be:

  • links to recordings of conversations with key stakeholders and innovators
  • links to digital assets such as project-related websites
  • valuable notes on different ideas, comments, and observations relating to each cause
  • an optional scoring system on different aspects of each cause to help you compare and contrast each one

This will be your ‘go to’ resource which, not only captures the richness and vibrancy of what you’ve experienced so far on your philanthropic journey, is also a practical tool to inform your thinking when you move onto decision-making in #5.

#5 Choosing Your Signature Cause(s) – or further discovery…

At this stage, you may choose to spend more time strategising or you may feel ready to start translating your vision and strategy into reality.

Following a presentation to walk you through your portfolio showcasing your potential signature causes, we’ll then have a structured conversation to pinpoint which cause(s) you feel are the best fit with you and merit becoming your ‘signature cause(s)’. In this discussion, we’ll also do some initial action planning to develop a strategy for creating your vision. At this stage, you may choose to spend more time strategising or you may feel ready to start translating your vision and strategy into reality. This is a personal process as every philanthropist’s journey is a unique experience and a creative process with no set guidelines for achieving it.

Let’s do this. What now?

You’ll now be ready to embark on your philanthropic journey with a clear idea of your signature cause(s) and some next steps for how to progress this.  You may choose to take this forward yourself or to co-pilot with me via Annie Moon at Be the Difference VA Services for some additional practical support to create lasting change in the world.


Annie Moon
Annie Moon
Annie Moon's been hanging out in the not-for-profit sector for longer than she cares to remember. Starting out as a youth worker, she can distinctly recall the introduction of 'the internet' and wondering whether or not it was just a passing fad! Returning to the sector that she loves when she founded Be the Difference Virtual Assistant Services in 2017, serving change makers with a heady combination of not-for-profit strategic input and the practical implementation of project management with a virtual assistant skill set, she noticed that the world had moved on in the intervening years. She's been navigating all that's new (the social enterprise sector has mushroomed, digital is everything and millennials are trailblazing new movements and expecting more in terms of ethical and transparency). Yet, much remains the same, understanding how people connect, how you build social capital, acting as a catalyst and connector to facilitate social good. All this is the same; it's just a case of learning how to mix the old and new into something even better. Annie draws on community development experience, designing resources, volunteer management, development of voluntary sector infrastructure organisations, informal mentoring, multi sector partnerships, co-ordinating community events, research and evaluation of impact and more. Add to this her virtual assistant talents: social media, smarter working/volunteering remotely, organising webinars, calendar management, project management...The best approach with Annie is to ask - and see if she can deliver (usually, she can!). What she doesn't do: fundraising, sales, book keeping. She has professional experience in the following sectors: mental health, young people (including looked after), homeless/housing, community development, domestic abuse, user development.

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