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I have a problem with the word ‘strategic’. It tends to be over-used, alongside other words such as empowerment, leadership and tailored. (I also have a problem with literally, awesome and like – because, like, I have three children – but that’s another conversation.)

The phrase ‘strategic philanthropy’ started its life as part of the lexicon of corporate philanthropy. It was linked to cause-related marketing, in which companies focus their charitable activities around an issue or cause that, in turn, supports their own commercial objectives.

These days, ‘strategic philanthropy’ usually refers to a nebulous standard applied to private philanthropy, often defined by what it is not: i.e. it’s not cheque-book grantmaking, it’s not one-off or short-term, it’s not driven by personal passions, it’s not unmeasurable or unaccountable.

Even those of us who thought we knew what strategic philanthropy might be –  a style of giving characterised by a commitment to clear goals, data-driven strategies, heightened accountability and rigorous evaluations – are often faced with the frustrating reality that achieving social change is a…

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