If These Walls Could Talk

Foundations spend a lot of time and money defining the messages they want to share about themselves and their work, but those messages don’t always reflect the real story. What goes on inside the walls can be very different (and eventually, the truth will out). If the walls of your foundation could talk, what would they say? What’s going on? Your foundation may lack direction or a clear sense of purpose, and those within it might feel like they’re often stumbling in the dark. Perhaps this is because the goals are not clearly defined, or the ways in which they are communicated internally could use a boost. Who are these people? If your foundation focuses too much on filling traditionally … Continue reading If These Walls Could Talk

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Bringing Your New Strategic Plan Online Without Alienating Your Community

I recently wrote about the phrase funders say that terrifies grantees: “We’re about to start a strategic planning process.” Although there are many things I listed that you can do to help mitigate grantee angst during a strategic planning process, the work doesn’t stop when the final plan is approved. It’s likely that many grantees who relied on your funding in the past may not be part of your future plan, or will constitute a much smaller percentage of your grantmaking budget. If that’s the case, don’t make hearing the news like ripping off a Bandaid. Instead, make sure your new strategic plan rollout includes short-term strategies to help your grantees navigate the transition. For example: Communicate your new priorities clearly. Before sharing your … Continue reading Bringing Your New Strategic Plan Online Without Alienating Your Community

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3 Reasons Your New Funding Initiative Will Falter

I love developing new grant initiatives for foundations and individual philanthropists. There is nothing more exciting that identifying a problem where you have the potential to make a difference and then putting a plan in place to do just that. However, once the fanfare has subsided, I’ve noticed that many funder initiatives lose steam. Frustration builds as the approach that seemed so promising barely seems to make a dent in the problem, and certainly isn’t delivering the results it should. Here are three reasons why funding initiatives can fail instead of flourish: You didn’t learn from others Your new effort to ensure all children are reading by 3rd grade, transform public education in your state, or provide rural communities with … Continue reading 3 Reasons Your New Funding Initiative Will Falter

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Stop, Look and Listen: 3 Steps for Responding to a Community Crisis

The church shootings that took place in Charleston, SC were horrific, especially for those directly touched by the violence and hatred that spawned the attack. The same is true for Baltimore, Ferguson, and every other place where the emotions of residents overflow into protests or violence. Perhaps the most frightening thing of all is that what happened in Charleston, or Baltimore, or Ferguson could happen just about anywhere – which means that every grantmaker should think about ways to respond in the event of a community crisis. Here are three steps to follow when a crisis arises in your community: 1. Stop. As soon as word of a crisis breaks, stop what you’re doing, acknowledge the issue, and share your words … Continue reading Stop, Look and Listen: 3 Steps for Responding to a Community Crisis

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How to Strike Fear in the Hearts of Grantees

In my experience, few words strike fear in the hearts of foundation grantees like the following, when dropped by a program officer’s lips:  We’re about to start a strategic planning process.  Aarrrgh! Nooooo! I can almost hear the screams of terror here in my top-secret vacation retreat spot. And who can blame them?  A funder undergoing strategic planning often pulls the rug out from under grantees, at least temporarily, while the funder “suspends grantmaking” for a few months or even a year to “evaluate priorities and approaches.”  During that time, grantees might be asked to answer questions about their work, participate in discussion or focus groups, or even (gulp) share their opinions with funders in person. And all the while, … Continue reading How to Strike Fear in the Hearts of Grantees

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