Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

Fend Off Post-Summer Panic Before It Even Starts

Summer is fast approaching, and while you might be dreaming of sunny beaches and lazy summer days, you might also feel anxious about the progress you have not yet made during the first half of the year. Wasn’t it just January when you were making plans to change the world? And here we are days away from June 1st. How much progress have you made in your personal and professional goals? If you are like many of us, not as much as you hoped. Yikes! With the busyness of summer — family vacations, packing the kids up for camps and activities, and projects around the house — it can be hard to imagine finding the time or the energy to … Continue reading Fend Off Post-Summer Panic Before It Even Starts

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Beyond The Basics: 4 Smart Practices Of Savvy Grantmakers

Take your philanthropy and your effectiveness to the next level. Maybe you’ve been practicing philanthropy for a while and you’ve mastered the basics — the essentials you need to create a solid grantmaking strategy and process. How do you take your work and your effectiveness to the next level? It’s one thing to be competent; it’s another to go beyond the basics and really hone your craft. Here are four smart grantmaking practices that will help you do just that: Practice #1: Organize your work around your values. One of my clients was the new CEO of a health foundation. When she started she was delighted to see that words like “evaluation,” “learning,” “transparency” and “results” were written everywhere in the foundation: … Continue reading Beyond The Basics: 4 Smart Practices Of Savvy Grantmakers

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Are YOU The Bottleneck To Effective Giving?

Are you damming up philanthropic progress by paralyzing decision making and workflow? Nature abhors a bottleneck. Take a look at any stream or river and you’ll see what happens when debris piles up. The water will eventually find a way around, over or through, and the results can be disastrous. The same is true for workflow in philanthropy — especially when funders are the ones creating the bottleneck. As funders, we often forget — or never truly realize — how much our decisions and actions can affect our grantees and partners downstream, and thus the people and causes they serve. When we delay decision or action, those who depend on our decision can get caught in limbo. If they’re grantees, … Continue reading Are YOU The Bottleneck To Effective Giving?

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Demolish Philanthropic Bureaucracy For Good​

Beat it back — or stop it before it even starts! We often hear about streamlining philanthropy — mostly with regard to efforts at simplifying grant applications, approval processes and reporting requirements. Streamlining is great. But when it comes to philanthropic bureaucracy, sometimes what we really need is a bulldozer. Some bureaucratic processes are so ridiculous, they just need to be demolished. Here’s a great example of philanthropic bureaucracy: 300-page board dockets. Imagine the joy on the board members’ faces when they receive those reams of paper in the mail to prepare for each board meeting. Imagine the hours and hours of foundation staff time that went into creating those reams of paper. Now, do you really think that anyone … Continue reading Demolish Philanthropic Bureaucracy For Good​

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6 Questions A Foundation Board Should Ask Its CEO

A board member’s job includes staying focused on the big picture. Serving on the board of a philanthropic foundation isn’t just about approving grants. It’s about being a good steward of resources and sharing responsibility for the foundation’s impact. Too often the focus tends to be on board meeting preparation and the efficiency of these meetings. Take a moment to break from the routine and consider asking your foundation CEO these questions to help the organization focus on the big picture. 1. How does this fit within our strategy? Let’s say your CEO announces, “We’re going to engage in a county-wide campaign to increase public transportation.” That sounds like a great idea, right? Who could be against public transportation? That’s … Continue reading 6 Questions A Foundation Board Should Ask Its CEO

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10 Steps to Rapid Strategy Implementation

Most funders fail at this. Are you one of them? About a year ago I decided to publish another book. I went so far as to write “publish book by year’s end” on a yellow post-it and stuck it next to my computer so that I’d see it every day. And then I let a bunch of other stuff get in the way. Client deadlines, speaking engagements, scheduling camp for my kids. I hadn’t made the book a priority, so nothing happened. A year later I changed. I made the book one of my top three priorities. Then I made a list of the most important things I needed to do to publish it. I blocked out time in my … Continue reading 10 Steps to Rapid Strategy Implementation

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Your Strategic Plan is About to Fail

Strategy most often fails in implementation. With all the effort that went into developing your new strategy and writing your strategic plan, the hardest part is making the darn think work! Many donors, foundations and corporate giving programs create strategic plans to clarify their philanthropic goals and guide funding decisions. Too often, however, their new strategy doesn’t even get off the ground. Here are five reasons for this: 1. You are exhausted. If you are like most foundations and philanthropists, you have spent WAY too long developing your strategy. Endless meetings, environmental scans, self-assessments, board assessments, finding and engaging a small army of content experts, writing and re-writing the perfect strategic plan document (complete with beautiful graphics and theories of change). … Continue reading Your Strategic Plan is About to Fail

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8 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting Out In Philanthropy

How new foundation trustees can have lasting and effective success. Whether you are launching a new foundation, refreshing your giving strategy, or are a new foundation board member, you want your philanthropy to change the world. Yet you feel unsure how to tackle complex social problems and wonder if you have what it takes to make a difference. It’s vital for new foundation leaders to determine your goals and implement your strategy without becoming mired in a culture that stifles effectiveness. To help educate and guide foundation boards toward early and lasting success, I have compiled a list of eight common mistakes foundation trustees often make — and how to avoid them. 1. They make the simple complex. Too often … Continue reading 8 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting Out In Philanthropy

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You Need A Strategic Catapult (And I’ll Tell You Why)

Stop endless planning and catapult yourself to your desired future. The term “strategic planning” is an oxymoron. Formulating your strategy equates to determining your desired future state—for example, what change you want see in your community, what organization you want to become, what type of person you want to be. Implementing your strategy means moving from your current state to your desired future state as quickly as possible. Planning, however, is incremental. We ask ourselves what we can accomplish a year or two from now, given current resources and priorities. And then we let all kinds of things get in the way. “Well, we have that conference to organize and that will take a few months, then we need a few months to plan for … Continue reading You Need A Strategic Catapult (And I’ll Tell You Why)

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What’s Your ‘Secret Weapon’​ In Philanthropy?

Free yourself from the daily grind and support your best work. Keeping up with board meetings, grant applications, new partnerships, changes in technology and more can make the day-to-day work of managing a foundation very full, and sometimes overflowing. Every foundation CEO or board chair needs to create space for something more, though—your own way of pausing the routine and thinking bigger. I like to call it a “secret weapon.” It varies for each individual, but the outcome is the same: allowing time to better reflect, think and inform your philanthropy. What do you read? There’s no shortage of information available to better advise your work. Most clients I talk to are frustrated with information overload. Yes, that is something … Continue reading What’s Your ‘Secret Weapon’​ In Philanthropy?

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