Are you Inspiring or Deflating? 5 Ways to Encourage the Best in Others

I recently fired someone. It wasn’t that he was doing a bad job, per se. The main reason was because his way of communicating with me was to scold me for what he considered my underperformance, rather than encouraging me to do better. This professional (for whom I was the client, paying him) made a point of telling me that my early efforts were “off to a very poor start,” and that all of his other clients were doing a far better job. He even went so far as to get downright punitive, charging me $200 for a missed appointment after I cancelled because of a raging stomach flu. No one wants to be constantly scolded or treated like a … Continue reading Are you Inspiring or Deflating? 5 Ways to Encourage the Best in Others

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3 Unexpected Lessons That Stuck

More years ago than I care to count, I received a Masters in Social Work from San Francisco State University. Although I never practiced as a clinical social worker, I consider myself to be doing “macro” social work every day. The lessons I learned in that program have contributed a great deal to my work in philanthropy, first as a foundation staffer and now as a consultant. However, the three lessons that have stuck with me the most vividly, and have proven to be stalwart wisdom throughout my career, have little to do with social work per-se and everything to do with how our world works. They guide my thinking in every project, my personal and professional interactions, and the … Continue reading 3 Unexpected Lessons That Stuck

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3 Ways Foundations Squash Risk-Taking

There was a time not too long ago when you rarely heard the word “foundation” and “risk” in the same sentence…or paragraph…or entire document. Risk simply hasn’t been something formally and broadly associated with philanthropy over the past few decades. However, it’s become pretty obvious to many people that the traditional ways of grantmaking are not enough to make a dent in the entrenched and intertwined social challenges of poverty, inequity, education or healthcare. Yes, one can’t blame philanthropy alone and other sectors very much bear their share of responsibility and obligation. But philanthropy can afford to take some risks that other sectors can’t. The concept of philanthropic risk isn’t new; there have always been some foundations that are willing … Continue reading 3 Ways Foundations Squash Risk-Taking

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To Convene or Not to Convene? 4 ways to make the most of coming together

Foundations have a unique and important role to play as a convenor. They can provide neutral ground for discussion. They have the social capital to compel attendance. And if all else fails, they usually have the budget for better-than-average meeting food. But I believe that foundations also have a responsibility to use their convening power wisely, and to remember that convening is a tool and not an end in and of itself. Many foundations make the assumption that convening grantees or stakeholders is the best way to gather information and input, or instantly show the foundation’s interest in community engagement, build consensus, or surface parties that may want to work together in new ways. But oftentimes convening isn’t the best … Continue reading To Convene or Not to Convene? 4 ways to make the most of coming together

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