Pillars of Impact: Need, Outcomes, Scale & Revenue

Pillars of Philanthropic Impact

Modern media is full of articles, blogs, research papers and enthusiastic descriptions of new ways of engaging in philanthropy. Often described as ‘social impact investing’ or ‘social venture capital’ the focus has moved from individual or foundation philanthropy to groups of entrepreneurs making a collective investment in a cause, sometimes expecting a return on that investment. Much of this change in perspective comes from young, successful business entrepreneurs entering the philanthropic space and bringing with them the governing principles and language used by successful startups.

Four pillars are often seen in this modern view. They are not new, they have been part of the philanthropic landscape for decades, but they have risen more firmly to the top of the conditions and expectations for giving. The first is a documented need, not just one that tugs the heart, but a clearly documented threat that is, or could be, damaging to a population or environment. Next, measurable outcomes are expected to be identified as goals at the outset of the initiative with ongoing research to confirm them. Third is an organization’s ability to scale their efforts to address larger populations over time. Finally, nonprofits seeking funding are increasingly expected to have earned revenue as a component of their model and not be entirely dependent on contributed income. Sometimes this revenue expands the effort, sometimes it may reimburse the funders for all or part of their initial investment.

In most cases, these expectations are value added to the sector, bringing discipline and clarity to the work and creating pillars to measure and prove impact. To illustrate, a global health nonprofit will quantify the need for vaccinations in a country by showing the percent of the population suffering from communicable diseases for which vaccines are available. They will then calculate their timeline to scale the delivery of their services, for example providing vaccinations first to one village, then five, then a region or even a nation. The nonprofit will predict the anticipated outcomes in the reduction of disease and document the actual outcomes to prove success. Finally, the organization will seek revenue from those who are able to pay, for example governments or hospitals, to insure the initiative can reach those too poor to pay, the underserved individuals and villages.

A caution is that modern philanthropy will increasingly be focused on initiatives that inherently conform to this Four Pillars model, while leaving behind needs that are too desperate, small, messy or difficult to attract funding. We hope the next generation of successful innovators and entrepreneurs will help us solve these problems as well.

Rodman & Associates is pleased to be a partner in these efforts, large and small.

2018 Rodman Report provides philanthropy stats, trends among local businesses

An annual survey of Central Texas companies found that most maintain a strong emphasis on corporate giving, with philanthropy budgets that increased from 2016 to 2017.

The 2018 Rodman Report details that and other results from a survey of businesses of various sizes and industries. This marks the fourth year in a row that Austin-based philanthropic advisors Rodman & Associates have conducted the Survey of Corporate Giving, the only study of its kind that addresses Austin and the surrounding area.

2018 Rodman Report

The survey compiles statistics and sets benchmarks measuring how much, and in what ways, Central Texas companies give to nonprofits. Lisa Rodman, founder and principal of Rodman & Associates, said the results prove valuable for businesses to understand how their giving compares to others in the community, and for nonprofits to see how their needs align with the giving priorities of Central Texas businesses.

A few highlights of the Rodman Report include:

Who spearheads giving: The survey identifies the departments or positions most likely to be philanthropy decision makers at companies, and this year those results were matched to company size. Hint: the likely decision makers at small companies are not the same as those at larger corporations.

What they donate: Companies are most likely to provide monetary donations and employee volunteer hours as methods of giving (77 percent for both). Group volunteering is encouraged in 72 percent of companies.

Whether they track volunteer hours: Though the number has been gradually trending upward over the past few years, only 36 percent of respondents said their company tracks volunteer hours. Tracking volunteer hours is a great way for companies to help measure this aspect of their contribution year over year.

Rodman said the good news for nonprofits is that corporate philanthropy is strong in Central Texas – and it continues to trend in the right direction.

“More than two-thirds of survey respondents said their companies have philanthropic/giving budgets; and the majority of those budgets increased last year,” Rodman said.  She added, however, that some methods of engaging employees in philanthropy decreased, indicating that business leaders need to be mindful of supporting employee efforts.

“I believe the single most effective way to encourage employees to be more philanthropic is to provide a corporate match,” Rodman said. “This benefits the employer because it ties corporate support directly to the causes that are important to the employee base.”

The results in the Rodman Report are drawn from the responses of 134 Central Texas companies that participated in an online survey between January 19 and February 10, 2018.

The Rodman Report is available at, along with an infographic, “Central Texas:  Corporate Giving by the Numbers.” Rodman & Associates encourages the public to freely share and distribute the report and its data, especially among business leaders, employees, and nonprofit board members and professionals.

Are we doing our homework?


America is the most generous nation in the world, with nearly 1 million charities receiving public support. A few key motivators prompt our giving—our personal experience with an organization, a bricks and mortar presence, and the belief the organization will endure for the long term. Americans are the most generous to their churches, universities and hospitals, with 62% of annual giving to religion and education alone.

But what about all the other needs? And the worthy new initiatives? How do we make informed choices and ensure our giving is meaningful, effective and truly impactful? (more…)

Some Good News in the Tax Bill

Here comes the New Year, and with it the new tax law. Reviews tell us that as the nation ages, the new law shifts many benefits to younger families. But there is a special tax break available just for seniors, passed by congress in 2016, and it doesn’t go away in the New Year. In fact, the newly signed tax bill makes it even more advantageous.  It’s called a qualified charitable distribution and only applies to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). (more…)

Is 2017 the last year you take a Charitable Tax Deduction?

We will not know for certain until the final vote, but it appears we may have only a few weeks remaining to get in front of expiring tax provisions. Both the Senate and the House version of tax reform include an increase in the standard deduction, while eliminating many other deductions. That means in the future, fewer people will benefit from itemizing their deductions, such as charitable donations.

Below we offer a few key charitable strategies to consider before the close of 2017: (more…)

Sometimes Charity Begins at Home

Whenever we sit down to visit with new clients about the most important things for them to pass down to the following generations, we hear about values, faith, family stories and life lessons. Occasionally we hear about a personal possession with a strong emotional value. Inevitably it takes a while to come around to financial assets and real estate.

What is money for?
How do you view your wealth?
What is your obligation to the younger generation, and to the world at large?
Top of mind for many of Rodman & Associates’ clients is “how do we raise charitable offspring”? (more…)

Gary Cooper

I’ve known Austin’s Gary Cooper for years, as a fine man and an effective community activist. Recently I learned that as a youth he received a full college scholarship from a successful businessman he was referred to by a newspaper editor who had interviewed Gary at his inner-city high school. Gary knew this was a gift he should pay forward and when the time came, he chose another fine young man, David Reyna, as his recipient. (Read David and Gary’s story here )

Gary had known David since he was 5 years old, when his mother began working for Gary. Gary has funded David’s dental care for several years, and now is paying college tuition, housing and transportation for David as he pursues his dream of becoming a petroleum engineer. Gary is also introducing him to engineering professionals and community cultural events to expand his vision and encourage his aspirations. I asked Gary to lunch so I could learn more about this compelling philanthropic story. I learned much more. (more…)

Austinites Annual Charitable Donations Revealed: Average $6,249 per tax payer


Do you earn $50,000 or more?  Itemized tax returns of U.S. Citizens earning $50,000 or more were examined to determine giving habits in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

This data represents almost 80 percent of all individual charitable contributions and offers the best possible view into charitable giving in distinct metropolitan areas.

A breakdown of top Texas cities: (more…)

Social Impact Investing Explained

For decades, the primary tool available to philanthropists were cash gifts and grants to nonprofit organizations. In the ‘60s that began to change as forward thinking organizations started offering low-interest loans to create low-income housing.  Today philanthropists employ multiple tools to harness the power of capital markets and spur societal change:

  • Debt offerings such as bonds to improve municipal water systems
  • Microfinance
  • Deposits with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and
  • Mission Related Investments, such as investing in new diagnostic technology to improve health outcomes.

These examples illustrate (more…)