Larry Gilson founded and leads Focusing Philanthropy, a nonprofit entity which identifies, evaluates, supports and monitors smaller, extraordinary charities. Focusing Philanthropy helps Larry and his family, and a growing number of other individual philanthropists and smaller foundations, make more informed, confident and impactful decisions regarding the allocation of their charitable dollars. In its first approximately two years of public activity, Focusing Philanthropy has been the vehicle for the deployment of about $6 million in support of the 16 nonprofits it has identified, showcases and supports — many of which would not otherwise be on the radar of most donors. Focusing Philanthropy is itself a public 501c3 charitable organization, all of whose expenses are born by the Gilson family so neither the donors who use Focusing Philanthropy as a resource, nor the nonprofits to which funds are directed, incur any cost in connection with the services Focusing Philanthropy provides.
In creating and leading Focusing Philanthropy, Larry is applying an experience base developed in a career that spans the investment world and public policy. He founded, led for 16 years and now advises a leading private equity firm focused on energy investing. During his tenure, his firm invested several billion dollars, making and overseeing 65 investments, developing skills in identifying, evaluation, and dealing with the practical challenges of scores of small and medium sized companies — an experience base he and his team now apply in assessing similarly sized nonprofits. Prior to his investment career, Larry held a variety of positions in Washington DC in and around the federal government. He was one of the founding staff of Common Cause, a citizens’ lobbying organization; he led a small federal commission; and he later served on the White House Staff of President Jimmy Carter.
Motivated initially by a desire to make more informed, rewarding philanthropic decisions himself, — but not finding a credible, existing resource on which he could rely — Larry created Focusing Philanthropy to fill the gap. He believes that donors want, and are entitled to, credible evidence that their generosity results in true, substantial impact, addressing the challenges and creating opportunities for those the nonprofit promises to help. It is not enough to just issue reports of a nonprofit’s activity. It is this difference between activity and impact which is at the heart of the ways Focusing Philanthropy, and Larry, think about philanthropy. It aspires to support and facilitate better donor decisions, to see that extremely worthy (but often largely unknown) nonprofits get the support they deserve and can effectively deploy, and thereby help to make the world of charitable giving more effective.