Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

Why RFPs Waste Time: Choose a Better Approach to Finding a Great Consultant — Part I

Imagine that the foundation for which you work needs to find consulting expertise for a particular project. Everyone agrees to develop an RFP to get qualified consultants to respond. That’s thorough, fair, and transparent. Right? Wrong. I rarely respond to RFPs for consulting engagements. Their expectations are not thorough, fair, or transparent. I find most RFPs to be a poor use of time and an impediment to my ability to improve our clients’ conditions.  What’s worse, many foundations fail to understand how an RFP process can waste their time and hinder their success. Foundations use RFPs to find consultants for four primary reasons: 1. They hope the proposals will give them free insights. 2. They don’t know many consultants and

read more >

12 Strategies for Spreading Your Small Grant Further

Do you want to make a big splash with grant dollars, but you can only make a small gift? Not a problem! Some of the most effective change starts with a small grant. Follow a few simple strategies to create a ripple effect with a small gift. Here are 12 ideas to help you make a big impact. Educate yourself. Who else is funding your issue? What’s needed and what can you do? Devote a day to researching your topic, and identify relevant experts and foundation program officers. Call or e-mail them to learn more. Invest in a great leader. Identify leaders you believe in, then support them. For example, provide executive coaching or management training so they can build

read more >

5 Questions That Will Improve Your Grantmaking

Giving money away is a complicated business, but a few simple questions can bring a lot of clarity to the process. The questions are straightforward, but they lead to deep issues that can impact your grantmaking profoundly. As you consider your next initiative, take some time to ask these questions:   What’s the problem? The first question to ask is what problem you want to solve. You may know that homelessness is the issue you care most about. But what’s the underlying cause to address? Is it that there aren’t enough jobs available? Is insufficient help available for people suffering from foreclosure? Are people coming out of the prison system with no resources and nowhere to live? You could consider these

read more >

The Power of Taking Stock: 5 Reasons to Conduct Evaluations

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, but I am not sure many foundations fully believe that. In the course of working with foundations across the country, I have made a somewhat surprising discovery: Many foundations grossly underestimate the importance of evaluating impact. This is unfortunate, because evaluation is both enlightening and empowering. In fact, measuring impact can give you power to ultimately increase that impact. Here are five reasons why foundations should regularly conduct evaluations. 1.  Evaluate to measure impact. The first reason to conduct evaluations is plain and simple: How will you know if you have had any influence unless you evaluate the effectiveness of your grantmaking program? There is really only one way to learn what the

read more >

Turn “Thank You” into Ongoing Growth and Development

We all know how great it feels to be recognized and applauded for a job well done, and you can shine a spotlight on emerging leaders and key issues by creating a leadership recognition program. But before you dive in, answer these three questions — they’ll help you build a program that meets your own needs and acknowledges those you want to reward.   1. Who benefits? Consider these four stakeholders: Your honorees – By acknowledging those who lead a nonprofit, you open doors to their future success, helping them gain recognition, legitimacy — and, perhaps, greater funding. Your honoree’s organization – Your acknowledgment benefits organizations as well as individuals, creating new awareness and helping the group build capacity, collaborate,

read more >

20 Ways a Consultant Can Make Your Life Easier

You and your staff can probably leap tall buildings in a single bound. But you might not be able — or willing — to tackle every single need that presents itself. It might be time to hire a consultant. If you are wondering just how much help consultants can be, here are 20 ways they can make your life easier. Perform needs assessments – The more ingrained we get in our work, the harder it is to see the big picture. A strategic consultant can provide an overview of your organization and help you determine where you have real gaps and where you need to make strategic change. Conduct environmental scans – It would be great to know who else

read more >

Special Ops: 5 Situations for Deploying a Red Team

We all need friends and colleagues who have our backs. But maybe we need something else, too. Maybe we need someone who can think like the enemy. The CIA calls it the “Red Team.” The military, the Federal Aviation Administration, and major corporations like IBM also use the term to refer to a group designed to penetrate your defenses — with your enthusiastic approval. This idea isn’t often discussed in philanthropy circles, but I believe it holds tremendous value for us. In any organization, a Red Team is charged with finding out what can go wrong, where the holes are, and why what you’re trying to do won’t work. The point is to question your assumptions, plans, operations, concepts, and

read more >

How Can You Stand Out From the Crowd?

Dropping my twins off at preschool yesterday, I slowed down (along with all the other cars on a 6 lane road) to stop and watch a small gaggle of geese walk slowly across the road. After explaining (unsuccessfully) to my kids that the plural of goose is geese, not gooses, we talked about how interesting it was that the geese chose to walk across the street when they could have flown. What made us all stop and pay attention was that the geese did something unusual, something  unexpected. They walked. They did this at some risk to themselves (they could have been hit by a car), but they didn’t seem to care. This year I’ve chosen to stand out from

read more >