Our Approach


Our Approach

We'll accompany you. 
We appreciate that managing your philanthropy can be overwhelming and isolating, and that it may require more time and thought than you're able to invest. We orient our services to your comfort level and move forward with you, step by step. From the start, you will have a direct relationship with one of the firm’s Partners who will take earning your trust seriously, marked by accessibility, deep inquiry and responsible leadership. In the process, you'll realize your personal potential to affect change.

We'll show you what’s possible with your resources. 
Our value as a partner to you is not in shepherding transactions for you, but in expanding your understanding of what is possible with philanthropy. We'll design a philanthropic experience that fits your values, risk tolerance and family dynamics. We'll find opportunities for you to partner with leaders and organizations who are addressing the needs of populations you care about and solving for issues important to you.

We’ll help you increase the effectiveness of your charitable dollars.
Private philanthropy only provides a drop in the bucket of what is needed to achieve lasting positive social and environmental justice, so we’ve formed an approach which we call “Trim Tab Philanthropy.” Like a huge ocean liner, entrenched social problems respond slowly and require a lot of energy to change course. However, charitable dollars critically deployed at opportune moments on bold new ideas can act like the trim tab* on the rudder of an ocean liner, making it possible to move in a new direction with very little effort. “The right shift in the right place at the right time.”

*See FAQs – What do we mean by “Trim Tab Philanthropy?”

We'll guide your giving in stages, in highly-customized engagements.
We recommend an integrated experience of giving, right-sized to your appetite and to the capacity constraints of the organizations you’re supporting. Perhaps your portfolio will include a mix of early stage grant support for a new social enterprise, direct delivery of services to an established one, or policy and advocacy activities in an issue area you care about. You’ll get a refined understanding of what’s involved to create social change, and we’ll fine tune your approach as we learn together.

We bridge the powers of philanthropists with changemakers to create systemic impact. We’re cross-trained on all sides of philanthropy -- as family philanthropic advisors, managers of non-profits, funding collaborators, board members and managers of our own philanthropy. This allows us a wider and wiser perspective on how long-term, systemic change comes about. We steward your philanthropy with intentionality and a balanced respect for the personal power and integrity of all involved.

Guiding Principles

These tenets guide the way we work:

  • Philanthropy, at its best, is society's risk capital.

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion make our world a better place.

  • Paying attention to the well-being of women and girls has an outsized impact on our communities and our environment.

  • Working in solidarity with partners is the only way real social change happens.

  • Identifying and investing in human talent results in innovative solutions and greater social justice.

  • Our work is a calling and an honor.


What characterizes a Dietel & Partners' client?

We advise those with philanthropic resources: individuals, families, and foundations. Our clients have philanthropic assets between $5-500 million+.

We work with those who advise individuals and institutions with philanthropic resources: wealth advisors, trust and estate lawyers, family offices, etc.

We assist those who receive philanthropic resources: grantee organizations, collaborative efforts, and other social impact entities. We work with over 200 grantee organizations annually.

We partner with others in the philanthropic and social sectors to help move the relevant fields forward through funder collaboratives and membership organizations.

How do you help clients with their philanthropic needs?

We educate and guide individuals, families and institutions on effective and responsible philanthropy.

We help clients identify philanthropic goals that align with their values.

We assess a client’s risk tolerance and determine how philanthropy fits into their lives.

We build custom portfolios of grantee organizations for our clients that demonstrate what’s possible with their resources.

We provide support to our clients’ grantee organizations.

We assist families during wealth transfers between generations.

We protect our clients’ anonymity while helping to develop their philanthropic portfolios.

What services do you NOT provide?

We aspire to help our clients in most facets of their philanthropic path, However, there are specific areas where we are not the appropriate advisor, including tax, accounting, legal, or investment services.

Why do clients hire you?

Buy vs. Build Some clients prefer to buy our services instead of building their own family foundation. We can provide better quality service at a more economical price.

Strategic Thought Partner Many clients have a grant-making infrastructure and process in place and hire us to provide strategic perspective on what is possible to achieve with their resources.

Anonymity Some clients prefer to be anonymous to grantee organizations.

Learning Journey Other clients want help preparing to run their own foundation or philanthropic initiative.

What distinguishes your interactions with your clients?

We don’t have expectations about what a client should know about their philanthropy. We engage with clients at any point in their philanthropic path. We’re accessible when we’re needed, and we believe it is good practice to meet our clients in person, whenever possible.

Each client has a direct relationship with one of the firm’s Partners. Partners build out a support team based on a client’s needs.

We gain a deep understanding of a client’s values, so they are clearly reflected in their philanthropy. We design and lead family meetings and retreats, and coach individual family members on their board service and volunteer engagements. When appropriate, we work with family office staff, as well as their accounting, legal and investment advisors. We often play a leadership role in bringing together all advisors to create a shared understanding of a client’s philanthropic needs.

How does Dietel & Partners operate?

We are committed to social justice and gender equity working internationally as well as domestically.

We take pride in our grantee-centric approach and are active field builders.

We are active members in 20+ sector collaboratives, affinity groups, membership organizations, and funder networks, and present and participate in nearly 20 philanthropy and issue area conferences annually.

We have experience building grantee portfolios in the following issue areas and geographies.

We invest our own capital. We believe it is critical for us to be active grant makers ourselves and have granted nearly $1 million as a firm.

We recognize the extreme privilege of doing this work, and as a virtual company keep our costs down by not having splashy offices.

What do you mean by "Trim Tab Philanthropy?"

Buckminster Fuller served in the U.S. Navy during WWI, was an engineer and inventor and coined the brilliant “Trim Tab” metaphor we often use. Layla Acaroglu, in Disruptive Design, summarizes his metaphor well:

"Even the biggest ship changes direction thanks to one of its smallest parts. Way in the back of a boat, down inside the rudder, is a small part called a trim tab. This mechanism moves one way, and the ship turns in a new direction. Bucky reminded us that we are all trim tabs, tiny parts of a big systems, all working to move the ship in different directions.”

The entirety of available philanthropic dollars in the world is not enough to fight injustice head on. We need to deploy these precious resources creatively. In our world, Trim Tab Philanthropy funds those ideas, organizations, and initiatives that have the ability to effect outsized positive social change with the resources philanthropy has to offer.

What types of charitable vehicles does Dietel & Partners have experience working with?

  • Charitable Trusts
  • Donor Advised Funds
  • Community Foundations
  • Family Foundations
  • Pooled Funds
  • Support Foundations
  • Checkbook philanthropy

How are your fees determined?

We strive to provide high-quality, customized service to our clients at a fair rate. We charge fees commensurate with the services we provide. Rates are determined according to:

  • Length of contract
  • Geographic focus of the portfolio
  • Complexity and number of grants
  • Requirement for additional resources, expertise, and/or use of intermediaries
  • Extent of fielding-building activities

We utilize 3 pricing frameworks based on the type of client engagement:

  • Percentage (%) of annual grant disbursements reflects an arrangement where Dietel & Partners is a fully-outsourced option for the client.
  • Monthly retainer reflects an engagement where Dietel & Partners provides continuing targeted advice, education, and support.
  • Project fee is used when Dietel & Partners works with a client on a one-time discrete project. Project fees are based on the anticipated time and resources involved plus travel and related expenses.

I’m working for a non-profit looking for funding. Can Dietel & Partners connect me to funders?

Unfortunately, due to the client-oriented nature of our work, we cannot accept unsolicited proposals for funding, and we do not make unsolicited referrals. We wish you success in your efforts.

Can you provide my non-profit organization with advice?

While we value the number of organizations doing interesting and important work around the world, we cannot offer advice and counsel to those outside of our current client portfolios.

We encourage you to continue to build strong connections with others in your field and seek opportunities to showcase your work. There are numerous funder and non-profit affinity groups that can help connect you. Our Network & Affiliations


“If all funders were like Dietel & Partners, those of us who are trying to make an impact in the world would be much more likely to succeed at our projects. I really think the philanthropic sector could learn a lot from Dietel & Partners.”


Rebecca Onie, Co-Founder, Health Leads