1 Mistake Family Foundations Should Avoid

A new, large family foundation is about to hire its first executive. The foundation board thinks “any manager”, a bank executive, or a business consultant would be perfectly qualified for the job – no philanthropy experience necessary. Sound familiar? Too often smart and talented people are extraordinarily successful in business, and then fail to apply their smarts to their philanthropic giving. I advised them to ask the following three questions: 1 – What is the business that allowed the donor to create so much wealth that he or she could start a foundation? Whatever it is, how successful would it have been if they had handed the role of CEO over to a banker or “any manager” with no experience … Continue reading 1 Mistake Family Foundations Should Avoid

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Clarity Trumps Strategy

I’m a highly organized person, and can spend endless hours creating strategies, with corresponding tactics, timelines and to-do lists. But in my experience, one thing trumps strategy: clarity. You can have all the strategies, logic models, and theories of change in the world, but you won’t get far if you aren’t crystal clear inside your head about what you are trying to accomplish. Let me give you two quick examples from my life, neither of which have anything to do with philanthropy. Many years ago I was in an unhealthy relationship. For five years. Thousands of dollars of therapy later, it wasn’t until I had clarity that this person wasn’t going to change, I needed to get out, and I … Continue reading Clarity Trumps Strategy

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The Value of Appreciating, and Letting Go, of Your Past

I recently gave away my kitchen table to my stepson. My motives were part altruistic (he needed one) and part selfish (great excuse to buy myself a new one!). But I did not expect the wave of sadness I felt as a result.  I’ve had this kitchen table since my mid twenties. I remember my mom buying it for me from Pottery Barn, its location in the kitchen of my San Francisco apartment, and all the people I’ve had over for dinner around that table. The table has seen me through five relationships, three moves, over 20 parties, and countless life changes. I sat at that table crying after I put my cat to sleep. I started my consulting business … Continue reading The Value of Appreciating, and Letting Go, of Your Past

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Does Your Grantmaking Initiative Take Initiative?

You’re designing a new philanthropic initiative and you expect results quickly. Which adjectives would you rather described your team? Option 1: Get up and go attitude, energetic, empowered, speedy, driven, inventive, and resourceful Option 2: Unsure, unclear, lethargic, slow, idle, and resistant If you have a pulse, I am guessing you chose Option 1. In my experience however, too many new philanthropic efforts crawl out of the gate because the participants and leaders are operating at Option 2. They don’t take initiative. But it’s relatively simple to set and elevate expectations for initiative-taking. In my consulting practice my team uses the “Five Degrees of Initiative” originally proposed in a Harvard Business Review Classic article “Who’s Got the Monkey” by William … Continue reading Does Your Grantmaking Initiative Take Initiative?

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4 Stepparenting Lessons for Grantmakers

I’m a stepparent and a stepchild. Apparently I am not alone. A staggering 42% of U.S. adults have a steprelationship–either a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. This translates to 95.5 million adults and doesn’t include all the stepkids under 18. This number is probably actually larger, when you count all the boyfriends, girlfriends, and fiancés of people with kids, plus those kids themselves. Essentially, there’s a whole bunch of adults and children wondering, “Who is this person, why are they in my life, and what am I supposed to do with them?” Here are four stepparenting lessons I’ve learned that apply to philanthropy and consulting: 1. You have all the responsibility and zero authority. As a stepparent you might … Continue reading 4 Stepparenting Lessons for Grantmakers

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Philanthropy Needs Strategy and Judgment, Not Tools and Tactics

Philanthropy and nonprofit leaders will continue jumping on tools and tactics, when strategy and judgment are needed. That’s the first philanthropy trend I predict for 2015, and I will share four more in the coming weeks. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean: 1 – Infographics: I’m all for finding visual and creative ways to educate people, but for the past few years people have jumped on the infographic bandwagon as if it were a solution for all information sharing. As a result, I’ve seen documents so crammed full of graphics and percentages they make my head spin. Not everything needs an infographic. 2 – Crowdfunding: I had a foundation program officer recently tell me that … Continue reading Philanthropy Needs Strategy and Judgment, Not Tools and Tactics

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