5 Ways Foundation CEOs Stress Their Program Executives (and How to Fix It)

Foundation CEOs carry a huge responsibility. They are charged with achieving mission, but doing so in a way that is as cost-effective as possible. Naturally, they depend heavily on their senior program staff to make sure these things happen – but in doing so they often end up making both mission effectiveness and cost effectiveness all but impossible to achieve. Here are five reasons why: Ridiculous Board Dockets – A foundation program officer once told me she aged two years preparing for each board meeting because of the excessive length and complexity of the board docket. I’ve advocated for shorter dockets before (see Stop the Board Docket Madness) and I’ll do it again. Providing every iota of detail on every … Continue reading 5 Ways Foundation CEOs Stress Their Program Executives (and How to Fix It)

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Want to Change Your Organization? Start with Yourself

I recently had breakfast with an old friend who is nearing the end of a five-month sabbatical from her job as a nonprofit executive director. It has been time well spent. She’s taken advantage of being away from a very stressful, time-consuming and labor-intensive job to relax, explore her creative side with writing and painting, spend quality time with her husband, and help her children with some key school-based transitions. She looks rested and says she feels great. She’s ready to go back to work…sort of. What’s making her pause? The realization that if she doesn’t change, nothing else will either. Her way of approaching her work is like many nonprofit and foundations leaders I know. She cares passionately about … Continue reading Want to Change Your Organization? Start with Yourself

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Let’s Bring Sanity Back to Grantmaking

Too Hard, Too Soft, or Just Right? Remember the story of Goldilocks and the three bears? At every turn, the blond-haired trespasser was confronted with choices, and in every case she picked the middle ground. Not that I condone breaking and entering, but there is something to be said for the idea of being neither too hard nor too soft on grantseekers. Either extreme – being too hard or being too “soft” ­- is a bad practice. Here’s why: Too Hard There is a longstanding philosophy among some funders that grants should be hard won by only those who can show themselves to be the most deserving. In some ways, they’re right. You don’t want to invest in an organization … Continue reading Let’s Bring Sanity Back to Grantmaking

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13 Questions To Learn From Your Grantmaking

Most philanthropies seek to be strategic and have an impact. Yet few build their own internal capacity to be strategic grantmakers. In particular, most funders forget to intentionally learn from their initial piloting and testing of strategies so that they can make early modifications and course corrections. Learning isn’t hard to do, but it must be intentional, documented, discussed among your team, and lead to decision-making. It can’t simply exist inside a program officer’s head. One of our clients, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, asks themselves “What will make or break this grant?” when deciding whether to recommend a significant grant to their board, so that they are clear on the risks involved and what needs to happen to … Continue reading 13 Questions To Learn From Your Grantmaking

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Want Feedback? Give It A Minute

My colleague was lamenting the other day about how difficult it often is to get more than a one-word answer from her 9-year-old son when he comes home from school. “How was your day?” she’ll ask. “Fine,” is the reply. “What did you do today?” “Stuff.” “Didn’t you do anything interesting?” “No.” It’s not that her son is particularly non-communicative; later in the evening (like when it’s time to go to sleep) he’s full of stories about the day and questions. My colleague realized that when her boy arrives home from school, he simply needs a break from thinking about it, or else wants time to process everything before discussing it. We agreed that it’s not this is not just … Continue reading Want Feedback? Give It A Minute

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