Sylvia Brown Smart Donors

Donor Education

When the tax and legal questions are answered…
When a family has united around a philanthropic mission…
When individuals seek to ramp up their effectiveness….

How will they know who is making the most difference?

Sylvia’s donor education courses, Smart Donors…Make a Difference (in the USA), ThinkingGiving (in the UK), and Smart Donors… Make a Difference – International (for Americans donating overseas) are the ideal resource for Trusted Advisors (such as financial planners, wealth advisors or trust & estate lawyers) to offer clients seeking guidance on making a charitable giving.

Smart Donors

Make a Difference

Smart Donors… Make a Difference is a donor education course specifically designed for individuals who make their own charitable giving decisions.

  • Clear, simple explanations
  • No jargon
  • Lively video case studies
  • Interactive exercises
To learn more about ThinkingGiving (the course for British donors), please click here.
To learn more about Smart Donors…Make a Difference – International Edition, please click here.


3-Hour Self Directed Course

An ideal resource for advisors to offer clients who wish to become more thoughtful and effective donors at their own pace.

Half-day Workshops

For small groups. Workshops combine video case studies and exercises with peer echanges in a live setting.


For advisors to make the best use of Smart Donors... Make a Difference tools and resources in enhancing their client relationship.

After completing the virtual course or a workshop, participants have a personal roadmap for their charitable giving.

In just 3 hours...

Uplifting Journeys

(Custom immersive experiences for small groups)

Uplifting Journeys is an immersive donor education program to learn the principles of thoughtful and effective giving.

After experiencing our lively workshops, informative site visits, and emotionally engaging internships with local non-profits, participants return home empowered and equipped to contribute more effectively toward any cause, anywhere.

“Because you are exploring a new world and a new culture, Uplifting Journeys offers unique personal learning experiences which can be translated into action.”

Uplifting Journeys

Testimonial Video

We Connect You

with local non-profits, social entrepreneurs, and community leaders for a deeply personal experience.

We Equip You

• to choose a cause where you can make a difference

• to measure social impact

• to select which non-profits to support and how best to engage with them

We Empower You

to research issues, select non-profits to support, measure social impact, and talk to your children about effective giving.

A Sample Itinerary

(From a previous boot camp in Colombia)

Days 1-3:

Experience & Evaluate

Each day is a mix of workshops and site visits.

  • A day at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios Santo Domingo, where exquisite craftsmanship is taught in a colonial palace.
  • A day at Bogota’s social enterprise Impact Hub to discuss social enterprise and participate in a pitch competition.
  • A day in Ciudad Bolivar, a low-income neighborhood, to meet the remarkable community building organization Tiempo de Juego.
  • Encounters with Batuta and Conectando Sonrisas, which use music and magic to train at-risk youth, former child soldiers, and gang members.
  • Key “good giving” practices were discussed with local experts, including representatives from Colombia’s leading foundations and NGOs, management consultants, academics, and government officials. The site visits put the lessons learned in context.

Days 4-5:

The Internships

Participants spent two interning at local charities based on their personal interests. Each morning, they were taken on site with an interpreter to spend the day participating in programs, meeting with senior staff, and observing firsthand the management challenges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Uplifting Journeys is designed specifically for small groups (15 participants maximum) under the auspices of an advisory firm, a club or association (such as a giving circle) or even a multigenerational family group that wish to engage in a far more transformative experience than a seminar or weekend course in their hometown. Locations can be national or international. Accomodations, restaurants and cultural activities are tailored to the requirements of each group.

The workshops, case studies and internships are all designed to teach the principles of “good giving” regardless of where participants are based and to what they direct their philanthropy. They return home inspired and equipped to give effectively to any cause in any location of their choosing.

Education is an investment. Thoughtful and strategic giving is a serious matter. Yet most people spend more time researching restaurants or vacations than the organizations to which they write checks. The money spent on an Uplifting Journeys experience will be multiplied many times when participants become more effective donors.

No, participants not expected to make a donation. Uplifting Journeys is not a form of “donor travel.” However, participants often decide to forge a relationship with the organizations they visit or intern with. They share their expertise, contacts and network – and sometimes choose to make a financial gift independently of Uplifting Journeys.

Uplifting Journeys pays the organizations for their time, the use of their venues, meals served, etc. However, we maintain a policy of strict neutrality and not distribute donations on behalf of participants.

Days 1-3 are a mix of workshops and site visits. The workshops include engaging group activities, lively debates, and presentations by local experts chosen for their speaking ability. The field trips/site visits are to local non-profits, selected as examples of best practice.

Days 4 and 5 are for the internships. Participants spend both days on site organizations carefully vetted to provide an engaging experience. The first day and a half are spent participating in activities. The last half day is spent meeting with senior staff to discuss the challenges faced by the organization.

During the entire course, participants meet each morning for a short “debrief” to share thoughts and opinions. There is “down-time” in the late afternoon for rest and personal activities.

Two days deeply immersed in a local non-profit can make a huge difference TO THE PARTICIPANT. Organizations are chosen according to each participant’s personal interests. Participants are accompanied by interpreters if necessary. For the first day and a half, they are immersed in the activities of the organization. This is a time to engage emotionally with hearts as well as heads. On the afternoon of the second day, participants sit down with senior management to discuss the challenges facing the organization.

We do not presume to be “doing good” and are careful not to make empty promises to the organizations that welcome our participants. Uplifting Journeys is not a form of voluntourism nor a “service learning” experience. However, experience shows that senior management often finds the dialogue with our participants very productive.

During the first three days, we select local non-profits to illustrate the lessons we teach, irrespective of the sector in which they operate. Depending on the location in which we are running the course, we may pick a particular issue area to illustrate the topic “where should I intervene to make the most difference.”

However, on Days 4 and 5, we carefully match local non-profits for internships with the issue areas of specific interest to participants.

We encourage participants to explore the country before or after the course. However, we always incorporate local culture and traditions in our choice or venues, restaurants and field trips.