I love speaking with really smart people.  I recently had a conversation with Professor Richard A. Marker about how to strategically create impact, and the conversation was so amazing that I’d like to share the highlights with you.

Richard is both a professor at NYU in the Academy for Grantmaking & Funder Education, as well as the founder of Wise Philanthropy.  They provide strategic advising and funder education for philanthropists, foundations and families.  Learn more about Richard here: http://wisephilanthropy.com.

I’m a system’s thinker, and I’m always trying to wrap my brain around how to invest resources to produce the greatest positive impact and personal fulfillment.  My conversation with Richard helped me to see how it all fits together.  See diagram below:

In order to create what I call a diversified “Impact Portfolio,” there are several key areas to consider to get started:
  1. Scale of Your Actions
  2. Depth and Breadth of Your Impact
  3. Roles (Purpose) of Different Sectors
Scale of Your Actions
Your actions can be small, medium or large.  These are represented by the circles in the diagram above.  Small to medium actions address an immediate (short-term) need, while large actions address the underlying systemic issue (long-term solutions).  Hunger, for example.  A small action might be to give food and clothing to a family who needs it, a medium action might be to donate to a local food pantry, and a large action would be to change government policy through advocacy and lobbying in order to address the underlying issues to create long-term change.

Depth and Breadth of Your Impact
Actions that reach only a few people may create a significant impact for those involved, and the results could be seen immediately.  In the example from above, providing food and clothing to a family will result in an immediate and profound impact for those involved.  This type of impact is deep and narrow, and your involvement may be very direct.

Providing resources to a food pantry would reach a broader range of people, and provides an immediate result.  Your involvement could me more or less direct, depending on how you support this type of organization.

Large actions that address the systemic issues may ultimately reach far more people, but the process may feel slow.  This type of impact is broad and your connection to the outcome may be much more indirect.

Roles (Purpose) of Different Sectors
The pie pieces from the diagram above represent a few of the different sectors that contribute to creating impact.  They each have a role in how they can contribute to the overall big picture.  In an ideal world, they would all work together and chime in when they can be of most benefit.  They are not mutually exclusive.

What This Means for You
Depending on the change YOU want to see in the world (your priorities), this perspective can give you some idea of how your actions impact the overall big picture, and give you some ideas on where to expand your presence in order to create greater impact and contribute to your overall satisfaction.