Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

Three Tips to Help You Accomplish Your Year-End Goals

Take a deep breath, stay focused and follow these steps. September means we are quickly approaching the end of 2018, and the race is on to accomplish all of our goals for the year. There are less than 70 working days left until the end of the year, depending on how many holidays you celebrate. Even fewer if, like me, you take off the last half of December. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time to accomplish your year-end goals, does it?! If you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to enjoy the return of scarves, pumpkins and crisp fall air, don’t fret. There really is still plenty of time to meet your goals before 2019 arrives. Take some deep … Continue reading Three Tips to Help You Accomplish Your Year-End Goals

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Philanthropy — The Forgotten Investment Asset

Why philanthropic giving is a smart investment tool for business. Socially conscious investors are after more than just financial returns. In addition to making money in the markets, we also want to make a difference. We want to leave a legacy of not just wealth but positive change. However, in our quest to be socially conscious change creators, we often overlook the power of one key asset: our philanthropy. For most people, philanthropy is the money we give away when we’re finished investing and earning in other areas. It’s a separate category — not just on our tax returns or financial planning documents, but also in our heads. The idea that one makes money first, then gives it away is … Continue reading Philanthropy — The Forgotten Investment Asset

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Get a Life

I just got back from my family’s annual month-long vacation to Chautauqua Institution, New York. In between long walks with my husband, taking our kids boating on Lake Chautauqua, and countless dinner parties with friends, I was retained by three new clients, booked a speaking engagement, became a “practical advice” content partner to Alliance Magazine (the leading magazine for the global philanthropic sector), and was asked to be the new “international expert on strategic philanthropy” for an online European philanthropy news outlet (more on that in the coming months). Sounds like a pretty productive vacation, right?! I’m often asked by my advising and coaching clients how they can create a better “work-life balance.” And I share the advice I’ve learned … Continue reading Get a Life

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Responsive vs. Strategic Grantmaking: Which One is Right for You?

Determine which approach to grantmaking works best for your foundation In philanthropy, there is much written about responsive and strategic approaches to philanthropy. Which approach is the most appropriate? Meaningful? Effective? Grantmakers have many roles to play in a community, and how they define those roles can vary greatly, so it’s important for foundations to understand both strategic and responsive options to determine which approach may be preferable. Responsive grantmaking is being open to receiving proposals and ideas from any nonprofit and allowing the nonprofits to drive the agenda. Requests are initiated by the nonprofit, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but it does mean that within … Continue reading Responsive vs. Strategic Grantmaking: Which One is Right for You?

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Are You Really Learning and Improving?

6 Questions to Regularly Ask Yourself and Your Partners 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 within your team, and it must lead to decision making. It can’t simply exist inside a program officer’s head. One of our clients asks themselves, “What will make or break this grant?” when deciding whether to recommend a significant grant to their board. They are clear on the risks involved and what … Continue reading Are You Really Learning and Improving?

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Leave The Office And Break Out Of Your Bubble

Engage more deeply in learning about the issues you address and the places you serve. Effective grantmaking rarely happens if grantmakers spend all their time behind their desks. Solving intractable problems requires that funders have a true understanding of the issue, a range of partners to join in the work and an ability to continually learn from collective actions and apply that learning to ongoing efforts. None of these three things is possible if funders don’t get out of their offices and into their communities, face-to-face, on a regular basis. Here are four reasons for grantmakers to leave the office and break out of the bubble: 1. You learn more than if you’d stayed in the office. Imagine a program officer … Continue reading Leave The Office And Break Out Of Your Bubble

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Five Mistakes to Avoid When Pursuing Strategic Grantmaking

Being more strategic doesn’t have to be complex. The term “strategic philanthropy” is everywhere these days. That’s not surprising, since most funders are looking for ways to increase their impact. Being more strategic can be a complex undertaking — and like every complex undertaking, shifting toward strategic grantmaking comes with multiple pitfalls and opportunities to make mistakes. That’s okay. Mistakes can provide valuable information for ongoing learning, which is a key part of strategic grantmaking. Acknowledging and acting on them only serves to make your efforts stronger. That said, there are some common pitfalls that any foundation can avoid with a little forethought: 1. Not asking “why”. There is a tendency when discussing new ideas for philanthropy to rush headlong into … Continue reading Five Mistakes to Avoid When Pursuing Strategic Grantmaking

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Teach Giving With Three Empty Jars

A simple lesson can start a child on a lifetime of philanthropy. Philanthropy is an instinctive impulse. Watch a roomful of toddlers, and you’ll see how even very young children naturally are concerned about other children who are upset. Part of this is human nature, and part of it is nurture. The early lessons we teach our children about caring for others, including through our gifts of time and money, are lessons they carry with them always. One of the simplest ways I know to invest in your child’s philanthropic spirit is by using three empty jars. Starting as early as preschool for some children, but definitely by elementary school, begin the practice of preserving a little money to share … Continue reading Teach Giving With Three Empty Jars

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Are You Driving Your Staff (and Grantees) to Drink?

Get rid of vague terms and confusing philanthropy jargon forever. In my line of work, I pick up a lot of interesting stories from the front lines of the foundation world. Some are inspiring, some heart-wrenching, and others downright funny. This one made me want to both laugh and cry simultaneously. A foundation leader told me that he and his staff were fed up with the amount of philanthro-speak that appeared in foundation documents — especially in the foundation’s grant guidelines. Vague terms like “innovative,” “equity,” “empowerment,” “disruption,” “intersectionality,” “sustainability,” “collective impact,” “best practices,” and “systemic,” were rife within the guidelines document. Grantees, confounded by the language, attempted to make up for their lack of clarity by peppering those same … Continue reading Are You Driving Your Staff (and Grantees) to Drink?

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How To Fend Off Post-Summer Panic Before It Even Starts

Do the math and plan ahead for success. Spring is definitely in the air! Last year I shared some very popular advice among funders at the start of the summer. The response was so great, I would love to share it again to prepare for the upcoming months. 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 … Continue reading How To Fend Off Post-Summer Panic Before It Even Starts

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