Billionaires who become philanthropists tend to approach philanthropy with the same geographical perspective as they approached their businesses and personal lives: The entire globe is their business geography, as well their recreation and play area, and the globe is where they pursue their philanthropy. On the other hand, those with less affluence (from several hundred million dollars down to only a few hundred thousand) are increasingly focused on investing their philanthropic dollars locally.

One donor, who contributed $100 million to a medical center, explained his decision this way:

There are a lot of great causes everywhere, but we wanted to return this money to the community where we made the money. We wanted to keep the money at home.

Another donor told us:

You’re converting lives at the local level, which is visible, tangible, and exciting.

While there is a great deal of focus on the international mega philanthropists, such as Bill and Melinda Gates contributing to causes in Africa, many more donors are eager to find the right opportunities to make a difference within their home geography. That is great news for healthcare philanthropy.

A recent article in The New York Times (“When Impact Investing Stays Local,” July 17, 2015) reinforces what we have learned in our research: Donors who focus on making a difference in their communities “are engaging in the same type of impact investing—meaning that they measure what their dollars accomplish—that is at the heart of much global giving.”


The question healthcare organizations must ask themselves is: Are we providing opportunities for such donors to make an impact locally?

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