The Call to Transformational Philanthropy

On December 24, 2010 Haiti suffered from a massively destructive earthquake. In the days that followed, newsfeeds across the globe shared heart-wrenching images of an aftermath which left an island of rubble, 220,000 people dead and 1,500,000 displaced. Over a few short months, more than $13 billion from charities and nations around the world poured into the country. Immediate needs were met, but much of the good will was lost to waste and greed. As a result, Haiti has yet to recover.

According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, more than 50% of all disaster support is directed to response and relief. Compare this with the just 12% of disaster giving that is earmarked for reconstruction and recovery. Response and relief support is emotional, spontaneous, and in many regards valuable; however we know this giving does not effectively align with the financial realities faced by a community in times of disaster. Perhaps a different type of philanthropic response would have changed the course for Haiti.

As we inch into the post-COVID reality, what lessons can be learned from historical disaster-giving trends? While a thorough analysis of charitable giving in 2020 has yet to emerge, experts in our field will not be surprised to see that the disaster-giving trend remains true. We know, for example, that over the year, across the country, contributions to food banks skyrocketed while nonprofits that support cancer research, prevention, and advocacy were unable to meet budgetary needs. Meanwhile, foundations, in an attempt to be more responsive during the crisis, broadened support – often drifting outside of core mission elements – and relaxed typical grant reporting and oversight requirements.

Band-aid relief and checkbook giving have their place, but fail to solve the community’s more significant problems. Furthermore, it has come at the expense of valuable mission-driven organizations with focuses on education, the arts, and COVID-sidelined medical research. Now, the role of the strategic transformational giver is particularly valuable as personal philanthropic missions are put to task.



reacts. It’s quick, easy, and spontaneous! Most commonly, transactional giving is an asset in times of crisis.

addresses needs. Often, the purpose of the gift is simple and clear.

responds to an organization. The grant is gifted to philanthropist’s friends, in response to the well written appeal, or the charming Executive Director.

is low impact. The transactional philanthropist requires little in return for their gift. With no expectations, the impact is less.

is modest. Often transactional gifts are comfortable and safe amounts that result in feel good acknowledgment.

helps. The transactional philanthropist feels good helping others.



is proactive. It’s planned and thoughtful. Transformational giving requires an assessment of a more significant problem. It takes time and requires support.

solves problems. Solving problems requires analysis and understanding.

gives to an issue and an idea. Giving in this realm seeks cooperation in problem solving. The transformational giver wants to ensure that entities collaborate to solve problems.

is high impact. The transformational philanthropist desires for their gift to be a change agent. This impact requires relationship building.

is substantial. Solving problems is an investment of time and money. The philanthropist may step outside of their comfort zone.

changes lives! The transformational philanthropist often feels an authentic transformation in their self-worth. It’s an investment in their legacy.



As we transition out of pandemic mode and hit the reset button, we hope that foundations and individuals, like you, with the capacity to give, will reflect on how they can make a lasting impact. Philanthropy is a vital investment tool that changes lives and shapes our community. When done well, it is transformative for donors as they engage in creating meaningful change.

At Empreinte Consulting, helping those who help others is our business, and we are ready to help YOU! Our team of Philanthropic Advisors has supported numerous philanthropists in their decision-making and helped maximize the impact of transformational giving. At a time when generosity and philanthropy are needed more than ever, we can ensure that your mission and vision are fulfilled in a way that genuinely advances the missions you care most about.

What’s your mission? Are ready to invest in your legacy? Are you looking for the recipient of your next bold transformational gift? Your investment in our community may provide one of the most rewarding returns of your life.