Insights into portfolio granting for deeper philanthropic impact

Jun 07, 2024

In this blog, learn how Vik Dewan and a team of experts are working to increase donor impact on important charitable causes. 


After a decades-long career in banking followed by a second career as CEO of a major nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, I’ve dedicated myself to a new cause: creating networks of organizations doing the very best work in the areas of food and shelter scarcity, along with other critical issues facing our society today. I’m reaching out because I believe you, as Vanguard Charitable donors, might share my belief that there is a different way to achieve philanthropic impact and outcomes. 


Portfolio Granting: Doing good a different way 


Wanting to make a difference in this world is a big deal. Putting your time, passion and money into doing so is…well…a huge and anticipative commitment. 


You have made that commitment. By setting up a donor-advised fund, you have embarked on your philanthropic journey, but what comes next? How do you make sure you’re doing as much as you can to effectively address very real issues? 


As with most complex matters, there is not one single source, solution, or impact promise that can fully solve or even get to the root cause of society’s most pressing issues. In fact, when you look closely, the biggest difficulties facing our world are multifaceted, mandating a more comprehensive approach. One that brings together an assembly of thinkers and doers – a group of experts and organizations driven to solve problems and tackle issues, albeit from very different angles. 


Many of our social challenges did not come to be in a vacuum, so it’s no wonder one-dimensional solutions often lead to unintended and suboptimal outcomes. But what if there was a more comprehensive and holistic way to tackle issues? One that unites a whole spectrum of organizations with shared goals and a unified commitment tied to clear reporting of performance indicators and outcomes? Well, we think it’s possible. 


I believe private philanthropy can lead the way through an approach called portfolio granting. Portfolio granting is a strategy of providing financial resources to collaboratives of organizations, with each contributing unique expertise to address complex social issues. It’s an overlooked way of giving and having a more meaningful philanthropic impact. 


Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you make a donation to a very worthy nonprofit organization focused on addressing food scarcity. You learn that 100,000 cans of food were collected as a result of your donation and those of other people. But do you really know the actual impact? Can you ascertain how that distribution might have led to lower incidence of diabetes or perhaps better academic performance among school children not arriving at school hungry? I think so. BUT, these outcomes require bringing together organizations working alongside one another to ensure every action is tied to goals—including initiatives such as nutrition education and food-as-medicine as outcomes. 


Or, maybe you have become concerned about the adults you pass every day on your way to work that are unsheltered. You might ask yourself why all the efforts to provide transitional housing have resulted in a revolving door syndrome without sufficiently moving the needle on the issue of homelessness. It’s because homelessness is a complex issue needing a collective of partners working together to address its underlying cause from all sides. Trauma intervention, mental health support, addiction services, workforce programs, and transitional housing are all key ingredients to truly generating real change. Individually, organizations may lack resources to address all of these issues. But together, as a collaborative, organizations can create an entire universe of impact. 


If you are touched by these issues, know that so am I. Here’s what we know: There is a wide array of organizations to support. Many serve overlapping missions, yet don’t always have capacity to collaborate with one another. Often, we as donors are given only an opaque lens into organizational governance, performance, and impact. Online resources and 990s can be helpful, but they may not fully convey complex and collaborative outcomes as well as reporting of milestones of impact, performance, and how donor resources have been stewarded. 


Every nonprofit, no matter how effective it may be, delivers on only a portion of its overall mission and outcomes. Homelessness is as much about trauma and mental health as it is about homes and shelters. Food insecurity is as much about access to food as it is about actual nourishment. A holistic approach and a meaningful change in the status quo require the contribution of an entire suite of organizations working together to achieve more enduring outcomes. 


You want to be a well-informed investor in your philanthropic commitments, just as you are in your financial investments. Picking single nonprofits to support can be like picking single stocks or fixed income instruments. Your philanthropic commitment and investment can help you make your incredible impact even more tangible and meaningful. Portfolio granting is an outcomes-oriented commitment that I believe is doing good a different way—and potentially a more efficient and effective way of addressing some of our most critical community and societal issues. 


Thank you for helping to make a real difference in the world and thank you for joining me on this important journey. Together, let’s do some good and let’s do it well.


Vik Dewan headshot

Vik Dewan is a former Vanguard Charitable trustee and is currently a principal at Doing Good Well. 


About Doing Good Well 

Doing Good Well is registering as a nonprofit to connect donors with networks of leading community organizations working together to address critical needs, including food and housing insecurity.

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