Category Archives: Management

Bureaucratic Time-Suckers in Philanthropy

As I’ve often said, there are some stories of waste and counterproductivity in the foundation world that I simply couldn’t make up if I tried. This is one of those stories. Read it and see how many incidents of pointless bureaucracy and time-sucking processes you can find, then see if my list (below) matches yours. I recently was asked by a senior manager at a large foundation to submit a proposal. Time was of the essence, since the foundation’s annual budget year was about to end and this project needed to come in as part of the current budget. The senior manager’s assistant sent me a link to the foundation’s online portal to submit my proposal, which I did promptly. … Continue reading Bureaucratic Time-Suckers in Philanthropy

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Making the Case For (Your Own) Support

In my last post, I explained the ways that many individuals in foundations adopt a poverty mentality rather than an abundance mentality when it comes to their own personal activities. Many foundation staff and leaders sell themselves short and eschew the support they need for the sake of not taking precious resources away from others. But in doing so, they often undermine their effectiveness and that of their foundation. Support for your work is important. It allows you to maximize efficiency, gain valuable knowledge, create and leverage partners, explore creative solutions, and thereby promote and further the foundation’s mission. That support could take a number of forms, such as: An administrative support staff person A software upgrade Travel to a … Continue reading Making the Case For (Your Own) Support

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Embracing a Mindset of Abundance

Contrary to what one might assume from the phrase, having an “abundance mentality” has nothing to do with money. Instead, it has everything to do with your foundation’s beliefs, organizational culture, and how it approaches its work. At its core, an abundance mentality is based in a belief that almost anything is possible. David conquered Goliath, and you can help conquer just about anything if you’re willing to step forward and make an effort and an investment. No doubt you’ve seen both individuals and organizations that embrace an abundance mentality, and those who are trapped in a mentality of poverty.  The abundance mentality includes the belief that the answers are out there, if we only are willing to invest in … Continue reading Embracing a Mindset of Abundance

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Managing and Exceeding Community Expectations

Say you’re part of a new foundation, or one that is re-inventing itself, or even one that’s been around for a bit but has gotten a bit lethargic. You’re ready to step up, infuse energy into your work and rally community support. That’s fantastic! But you may also be somewhat fearful or hesitant. What if the community doesn’t like what you’re doing? What if your big idea or new direction doesn’t work? What if the community likes it too much and you’re overrun with demands and requests? These kinds of fears are normal. One important key to managing your foundation’s transition in a community is to manage – and then exceed – community expectations. Here are 8 tips to help … Continue reading Managing and Exceeding Community Expectations

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What Respectful Philanthropy Looks Like

Last week, I wrote about the small – but troubling – culture of disrespect that I’ve observed bubbling up in the field of philanthropy. In that post, I shared examples of grantmakers who disrespected colleagues, grantees and partners by doing things like intentionally double-booking their calendars, purposefully making grant applications lengthy, or refusing to shoulder their share of the cash flow. I also said that the culture of disrespect is still the exception rather than the rule. This week, I’d like to share a shining example of what respectful philanthropy can look like. This example comes from one of my clients, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. It’s a statement of Grantee Experience Standards that the Foundation developed after asking … Continue reading What Respectful Philanthropy Looks Like

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A Culture of Disrespect in Philanthropy

There is a lot of talk in philanthropy about organizational culture in foundations. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a culture of disrespect when it comes to the way foundations deal with grantees, consultant partners, and even themselves. Luckily – in my experience – this is the exception not the norm. Still, it’s troubling. Here are three examples: A foundation colleague told me his foundation has a “culture of double booking meetings” including among their own staff. He said, for example, you might schedule an hour-long meeting with a colleague to discuss an important matter, and when the colleague shows up you learn you only have 10 minutes because she booked another meeting at the same time. … Continue reading A Culture of Disrespect in Philanthropy

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Speaking with One Voice: 5 Tips for Joint Public Statements

Once upon a time, it was unheard of for a foundation to engage in any kind of discourse involving public policy. Now, it’s becoming more and more commonplace, as foundations realize that in order to truly create positive change and address the various root causes of the issues they fund, policy must come into the picture. Several of our clients have engaged in policy successfully in a variety of ways. Some work well in advance of legislative activity, bringing issues to light and convening experts to brainstorm potential policy solutions. Others work to support nonprofit organizations in their own advocacy efforts. Still others work after policies are enacted to help support their implementation. Sometimes, foundations feel the need to speak … Continue reading Speaking with One Voice: 5 Tips for Joint Public Statements

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Transactional vs. Transformative Transparency

This blog, written by myself and Elizabeth Russell, was originally posted on the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s blog, and is reposted here with permission. The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s (CEP) new report on transparency is a very valuable tool for introspection for individual foundations — and the wider field of philanthropy — to think about how we define and deliver on our pledges to become more transparent. As many other writers on CEP’s blog have pointed out, the report shows that while foundations seem to be doing a decent — and in some cases laudable — job of communicating openly about their grantmaking priorities and processes, there is much to be done in the realm of openly sharing lessons learned, … Continue reading Transactional vs. Transformative Transparency

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Similar and Different: 5 Key Shifts from Hospital Board to Private Foundation Board

The sale of a nonprofit hospital or health plan to a for-profit company can yield a great deal of change for a community, including the creation of a new, independent foundation created from the proceeds of the sale. In many cases, these new entities represent a significant new source of community wealth – and where assumptions may be that the actions of the new foundation may be closely tied to the clinical work of the hospital and the philanthropic efforts of the former hospital or health plan, the reality is often vastly different. Likewise, board members who previously served on the hospital foundation and are now on the board of the new, independent foundation may find themselves falling back on … Continue reading Similar and Different: 5 Key Shifts from Hospital Board to Private Foundation Board

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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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