Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

Don’t Act Against Your Nature

One of my favorite quotes from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden offers sage advice for philanthropy leaders: “You should limit the number of times you act against your nature, like sleeping with people you hate. It’s interesting to test your capabilities for a while, but too much will cause damage.” (Jenny Holzer) Think about this: What is one thing you are tolerating in your life or work that makes you miserable, angry, frustrated or sad? Now, think for a moment about all the damage that is causing you, along with your colleagues, organizations, and families. Here are some examples of foundation leaders who failed to trust their instinct and went against their nature – and the problems it caused: A senior

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Small Business Tips for Charitable Giving

Did you know that donating to a good case can help your business? I was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article that highlights how small companies should give to charities. Here is a summary of what it recommends: 1. Connect your cause to your company — A pet supply company will gain more traction donating to an animal shelter than to the opera. 2. Ask employees for their ideas on causes to support – Employees will be more engaged in your charitable efforts if they help to create them. 3. Support causes you care about in your backyard – Employees will be more appreciative that company philanthropy is supporting the communities in which they live, and local customers will too.

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Improve Your Philanthropic “Customer Experience”

I recently stayed at the Charles Hotel near Harvard Square, and was delighted to see the “Web Cube” on my hallway on my way to my room. It’s essentially a large closet with a desk, computer, printer and free internet access, available to all guests on the floor.  I assume each floor has them.  What a brilliant improvement to an existing valuable resource: hotel business centers. We’ve all used hotel business centers and have encountered similar problems: finding them, using them during limited business hours, and planning our time so that we don’t have to go back and forth from our room to the business center and back.  This web cube takes the customer experience to a new level. If

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

Last year I posted a blog about why I consider the RFP process for hiring consultants to be a waste of time and resources, for foundations and consultants alike. This week, read about 5 better ways to find quality consulting help. Before you send out another RFP to retain a consultant, consider these alternatives: Continuously source and build relationships with consultants. Don’t wait until you desperately need a consultant to start looking for one. Ask peer foundations to share their experiences. Create a shared list of consultants who have delivered pleasing results. Ask a consultant or two to help you brainstorm ideas in the early stages in exchange for lunch. Ask colleagues, including consultants, for referrals. Word of mouth truly is

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Unlikely Allies Unite for a Policy Win

It used to be that you could scour the country and be hard-pressed to find a foundation working in the public policy arena. Fortunately, that’s changing as more and more foundations realize that the root causes of the issues they want to address are themselves rooted within the workings of policy. But while it’s more common to find foundations working in policy, it’s still quite uncommon to find them working together on a policy issue. Policy is complicated, and figuring out one’s view and position around policy can be even more so. That’s one reason the Putnam team was so pleased to work with The Stuart Foundation in San Francisco on a recent case study about a loose collaboration of

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What Being Pregnant with Twins Taught Me About Philanthropy

Almost every aspiring mom (and dad) has big plans and preconceived ideas about what pregnancy will be like. You picture the way your life might change, you plan out a nursery, order a crib – it’s pretty straightforward stuff. Straightforward, that is, until you discover you’re having twins. Suddenly, all those plans and preconceptions go out the window, and you have to rethink everything. The basic premise is still the same – you’re bringing new life into the world and want to raise it well – but now the reality in which you’ll operate is vastly different than expected. The realities in which foundations operate bring similar shifts and challenges on a regular basis. We start out our careers or our

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Are We Killing the Magic?

On a recent trip with my twins to Magic Kingdom at Disney World, I was taken aback by the multiple barriers to actually entering the park, and the disappointing experience leaving the park after a fabulous, fun-filled day. Yes, it was fun while we were there, but the lead up and send off essentially killed the Magic Kingdom’s “magic” for me.It got me thinking: What road blocks do foundations inadvertently create, preventing ideal applicants from applying and great ideas from being funded? What opportunities are lost at the end of a grant period? How can we make sure we’re not killing the “magic” that comes from a synergistic and mutually fulfilling foundation-grantee relationship? Let me explain how the magic gets

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8 Resources for New Foundation CEOs

My previous blog post shared 5 mistakes to avoid if you are a new foundation CEO and new to philanthropy.  One mistake is not being willing to learn about your new role and field. Below I share eight resources that can help you in your role. In addition, nothing beats getting advice from seasoned foundation leaders, or if needed retaining a coach or advisor to help you. 1 – LearnPhilanthropy provides a wealth of free resources to accelerate learning among newcomers to philanthropy 2 – The Council on Foundations offers resources for CEO leadership development and foundation management 3 – If you are running a family foundation, the National Center on Family Philanthropy offers the CEO Initiative 4 – CEOs of small foundations

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Are You A New Foundation CEO? Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes!

I’ve worked with many new foundation CEOs, some of whom are not only new to their role, but new to philanthropy. If you find yourself in this position, here are 5 mistakes you should avoid: 1 – Assuming you don’t need to learn about philanthropy because you were hired for being “an outsider.” There is a trend in philanthropy to poo-poo philanthropy. A belief that philanthropy is too insular, which isn’t entirely untrue. However, every field needs to bring in fresh thinking and new ideas, and one way to accomplish that is to hire from outside. But that doesn’t mean that the field is damaged. Giving money away is not easy. Recognize that you are standing on the shoulders of seasoned

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5 Grantmaking Mistakes to Avoid

  If your “to-do” list includes “increase the impact of our giving” read on! Below are five grantmaking mistakes you should avoid. 1) Jumping on the latest philanthropy craze. Every year a new set of tools and ideas emerge that become the hot trends (think infographics, collective impact, Ice Bucket Challenge, crowd funding, social media) and grantmakers feel compelled to try them out.  I had a grantmaker recently tell me that her foundation decided they “need to do crowd funding” and therefore the new initiative she wanted me to help her design “must include crowd funding” but she wasn’t even sure what that meant. Crowd funding can be a great tool, depending upon what you are trying to accomplish. But this foundation

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