Head-Scratching, or Head-Nodding? 5 Tips for Communicating the Complex

The other day, my five-year-old twins were explaining a playground game to me. They were confident, they were patient with me, and they went into great detail, but there was no question that the rules of the game were far too complex for me – an outsider – to grasp. I felt that given enough time, I probably could have understood, but the moment passed and we all moved on to other things. I know they were probably disappointed in my slow uptake, but thankfully they’ve forgiven me. This put me in mind of a similar story that a philanthropist shared recently. His foundation has invested a great deal of money and time in a comprehensive new initiative, but when … Continue reading Head-Scratching, or Head-Nodding? 5 Tips for Communicating the Complex

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What is Signal and What is Noise?

Years ago, my father owned a company that made a business of storing information on microfiche. (Remember microfiche?) As the computer age dawned, he was definitely an early adopter and enthusiast in our home. He was swept up in the latest and greatest developments and it seemed as if he read everything published about computers and computing. He was caught up in all the chatter and noise about this new industry, but the irony is, he missed the one true signal he needed to hear: computers would revolutionize the information storage industry. If he had paid attention to the signal instead of the noise, perhaps his company would have been an industry leader today. But instead, he missed the opportunity … Continue reading What is Signal and What is Noise?

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An Underutilized Tool For Foundations—Policy Change

In philanthropy, we are driven by the causes that matter to us and bolstered by the opportunity to generate meaningful change. For years, when I was out in the community or talking with my colleagues about the work of Blue Shield of California Foundation, I would rarely start by describing us as a “policy funder.” Instead, I would say that we aim to strengthen and transform the systems that support the health and safety of California’s most vulnerable populations. As I thought more about our programs and grant making and peeled back the many layers of “systems change,” I uncovered a policy framework upon which so much of our work relies. For us—and most foundations—strong policies are the infrastructure that … Continue reading An Underutilized Tool For Foundations—Policy Change

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Let’s Take a Sledgehammer to Philanthropic Bureaucracy

We often hear about streamlining philanthropy – mostly with regards to efforts at simplifying grant applications, approval processes and reporting requirements. Programs such as Project Streamline (complements of the Grants Managers Network) help foundations to do this. Streamlining is great. But sometimes what we really need is a sledgehammer.  Some bureaucratic processes are so ridiculous, they just need to be whacked. We just need to get over ourselves and get on with the work. Here’s a great example: 300 page board dockets. (You know who you are.) Imagine the joy on the board members faces when they received those reams of paper in the mail. Imagine the hours and hours of foundation staff time that went into those reams of … Continue reading Let’s Take a Sledgehammer to Philanthropic Bureaucracy

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What Do You Know About Streamlining the Grantmaking Process?

We can all probably agree that grantmaking is not the most efficient process in the world – either for grantseekers or grantmakers. Thankfully, there are efforts underway like the Grants Managers Network (GMN) Project Streamline to help add simplicity and sense to the complex work of investing philanthropic dollars. More specifically, Project Streamline helps grantmakers assess their practices and improve them in ways that ensures funders get the information they need, while reducing the application and reporting burden for grantseekers. Grantmaking simplicity is a big sandbox in which to play. Project Streamline is only one effort, and there are many, many facets to grantmaking complexity. That’s why GMN and I want to know: What have you learned to help improve … Continue reading What Do You Know About Streamlining the Grantmaking Process?

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