All posts by Lindsay

How Adaptable Are You?

Everyone relies on standard ways of doing things. From getting kids out the door to school or making the next big grant, we all need processes and systems that help us remember what’s next, what’s to be expected, and how to move forward. But sometimes things change, and we need to be able to change as well to accommodate a new short-term situation or a new long-term reality. Here’s a personal example. A few weeks ago I went to the hair salon for my standard cut and color (not that I’m going gray or anything). My tight schedule meant I couldn’t see my regular stylist. It was the morning of an international flight and my primary goal was speed and … Continue reading How Adaptable Are You?

read more >

Is Your Giving Hampered By A Poverty Mentality?

You’re completely committed to supporting others with your giving, and you’re doing everything possible to ensure that every penny of your charitable assets is going directly to the nonprofits that need it. That’s how you ensure the most effective use of your philanthropy, right? Wrong. Squeezing every penny into the philanthropic pipeline isn’t the same thing as ensuring effectiveness. In fact, penny-pinching during the philanthropic process may do more harm than good to those you wish to serve. Many individuals and foundations think they’re being good and prudent stewards of charitable assets when in fact they are withholding investments that could open the doors to greater productivity and more access to additional philanthropic capital. I call this operating with a … Continue reading Is Your Giving Hampered By A Poverty Mentality?

read more >

Five Things Jeff Bezos Needs To Know Before Giving Away Billions

Billionaire Jeff Bezos’s recent Tweet for suggestions about how to give some of his fortune away has inspired several media stories, including commentary and an open letter to Jeff Bezos about focusing on immediate suffering vs. creating a long-term strategy. Where, how and in what a philanthropist chooses to invest his or her philanthropic capital are all extremely important decisions. For someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, like Bezos, those decisions will no doubt reflect some new and different thinking. For the field of philanthropy, where many giving practices are deeply entrenched and sometimes outdated, “new and different” can be a very good thing. But no matter where, how or for how long Bezos chooses to be charitable, and no matter whether his philanthropy is wildly unconventional … Continue reading Five Things Jeff Bezos Needs To Know Before Giving Away Billions

read more >

8 Silo-Smashing Trends in Philanthropy

This article was originally written and published for Exponent Philanthropy. Read the original post here. In my work as a philanthropic advisor, I come across philanthropy in all forms- from individual giving to institutional grantmaking and everything in between. It used to be that most of my clients engaged in their work from behind a wall of protection. Charity and grantmaking were held aside and in addition to other forces for good. However, over the past few years I’ve noticed philanthropy in all forms becoming less siloed and more interwoven with the world around it. Here are eight manifestations of this trend: 1. CEO branding. Foundation CEOs and high-net-worth donors, following in the footsteps of their corporate counterparts, are realizing the personal and … Continue reading 8 Silo-Smashing Trends in Philanthropy

read more >

5 Keys to Establishing Trust

When it comes right down to it, being an effective philanthropist means establishing trust with the people you wish to help and the partners you’ll want and need to work with. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a sophisticated CEO of a nationwide organization or a hardscrabble leader of a struggling grassroots start-up. As human beings, we depend on levels of trust to guide us into new relationships and to see them through even when the going might get tough. And securing that mutual willingness to see things through in tough times is both the reason to establish trust and the reward for doing so. It may seem like a complex issue, but establishing trust really isn’t that difficult. As an … Continue reading 5 Keys to Establishing Trust

read more >

6 Steps To Stave Off The Post-Summer Panic Before It Starts

Spring is definitely in the air! In between client engagements, I’m getting busy with finalizing summer plans – projects around the house, family vacations, camps for the kids – and I know that many of my clients and colleagues are busy doing the same. If this year is like many others before it, we’ll dive into hectic summer schedules and breathe a sigh of relief in September as we wave our children back to school. Then we’ll take a good hard look at the work we’ve yet to accomplish and feel a surging sense of post-summer panic. We all do it. That’s why I usually get a rash of calls in September about projects that must either expend budgets or … Continue reading 6 Steps To Stave Off The Post-Summer Panic Before It Starts

read more >

When Tactical Trees Obscure the Strategic Forest

In my consultations with foundation boards, I’ve met many hardworking, well-meaning people who are often frustrated when they can’t seem to get anywhere in terms of foundation accomplishments and effectiveness. They say things like: “We tried funding that, but it didn’t work.” “We need to do some program-related investments.” “If we had a better email newsletter, people would understand what we’re doing.” “We should require a common budget form from all grantees.” To these board members, my first word of advice is, “You’re losing sight of the forest because you’re surrounding yourself with trees.” What I mean is, “You’re so focused on tactics that you’ve lost sight of your strategy. I can’t really blame them, of course. Tactics are easy … Continue reading When Tactical Trees Obscure the Strategic Forest

read more >

Death By a Thousand Data Points

Let me start this post by saying that data is not a bad thing. It informs our decisions much more accurately than our guts, and it keeps us honest in terms of outcomes. Both of those functions keep philanthropy moving forward in effective ways. But too much data can also grind your effectiveness to a halt. Let me explain. I’ve facilitated several strategic planning sessions where my clients have begun with a request for data. Together, we’ve determined which data points will be necessary for informing their strategic decisions, and I’ve mobilized the Putnam team to help collect and analyze it. We present our findings and recommendations. There is enough there to inform the planning process and move forward. This … Continue reading Death By a Thousand Data Points

read more >

Get in the Spirit of Collaboration

Donors and foundation leaders often expect nonprofits to collaborate, but they less frequently turn that expectation on themselves. Yet there is tremendous opportunity to exponentially expand impact through funder collaboration. In fact, it is rare for an individual or a funder to produce meaningful research or develop an idea all alone. Collaboration allows for greater leverage of ideas, investments, and reach to better ensure that research is thorough and conclusive, and that new products or approaches work and are relevant to those they’re intended to serve. What does it mean to collaborate? Funder collaborations happen in many different ways, all of which leverage the strengths of each collaborative partner to achieve a common goal. Collaborations can be formal and complex, with written agreements and well-defined roles and … Continue reading Get in the Spirit of Collaboration

read more >

Innovation is for Everyone

“Innovation” is one of those terms with many connotations, so it’s important to consider what you mean when you use it in your philanthropy. If you don’t have a clear definition, it leaves the onus to define and deliver innovation completely up to others, or it implies that innovation is something that “just happens.” Further, lack of clear definition has come to imply that innovation must be a dramatic, game-changing, disruptive new idea or practice: the iPhone of early childhood education, the Post-It note of economic development. Funders give little or no thought to how they expect grantees to be innovative – they certainly don’t help provide technical assistance or capacity support to help achieve innovation. And while everyone wants to … Continue reading Innovation is for Everyone

read more >