Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

Grantmakers Should Think Like Consultants

I believe foundations could save time, solve problems more efficiently, and add greater value if their senior leadership would think like consultants. Let me explain: Most consultants work on a time-and-materials basis, meaning that they have an hourly rate. Foundation leaders who hire those consultants deem the value of their work worth that fee. However, foundation leaders rarely calculate the cost and value of their own staff’s time — which is a pretty simple thing to do. Let’s say the annual salary of a senior program officer at your foundation is $100,000. Let’s assume her annual benefits are 25 percent, so now you are at $125,000. There are 2,080 working hours per year, so if you divide $125,000 by 2,080

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The 4 Dimensions of a Successful Communications Plan

No one likes to feel left out or overlooked, and when key stakeholders feel that way, the results can be painful and long lasting. I recently conducted a focus group of community leaders who expressed serious concerns about the lack of communication within a significant regional initiative. When I asked the group what could be done to fix this, another participant said something I’ll never forget: “Communications need to be top-down, bottom-up, inside out, and all around.” I think that sums up the components of an effective communications plan. The next time you launch a new grantmaking program or initiative for any issue, think through these four aspects of your communication needs so that none of your key stakeholders feels

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Who Is Your Customer?

It’s easy to get mired in the way things have always been done, and sometimes it leaves us blind to our customers’ real needs. So take a moment and ask yourself one critical question: Who is my customer? In my experience this is a question that most foundations simply don’t ask themselves. I was talking last week with a funder client (let’s call her Mary) who said that a big lesson she learned is that they should give their applicants more time to respond to a request for proposal. They had only given their applicants about a month; during that month, the applicant had to decide whether and how to apply jointly with other organizations that were also invited, prepare

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Keep It Simple

We often devise complex solutions to problems, when the best solution is usually the simplest. For example, many economically struggling urban cities desperately try to devise strategies to create bustling downtown neighborhoods where people actually want to spend time. Cleveland, near where I live, is one such community that has spent recent decades trying to do this. Recently I had a few moments in downtown Cleveland to catch my breath between meetings, and came across this urban plaza filled with pick-up corn hole games. I watched dozens of people, likely on their lunch break, having a blast playing corn hole (for those of you unfamiliar with the game, you essentially toss small bean bags into a hole cut out of

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Job Opening – Project Director at National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers

I serve as the Chair of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (NNCG) and we are currently seeking a new Project Director. In this part-time position, the project director will work with a dedicated group of volunteer members and a virtual office staff to: Expand the visibility and use of our Directory of Consultants as a vital resource to grantmakers Achieve organizational growth by increasing membership, creating business partnerships and successful grant funding Assist the professional consultant members in developing thought leadership via programs and networking Work with a part-time administrative team (contracted firm) to manage routine financial processing and routine communications For more information and to apply, please view the complete job description.

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6 Ways to Find Funding Partners

One of the best ways to increase the impact of your grantmaking is to leverage the funding and expertise of other foundations by developing funding partnerships. The trouble, of course, is that it’s not always easy to figure out who else might want to partner with you on your project. In my experience, there are six easy ways to identify possible funders to support you and your work. We’ll take a quick look at each: 1. Ask staff of your local Regional Association of Grantmakers. These individuals are working day in and day out with various foundations in your region, and they are keenly aware of the different issues and projects that are currently active. They will probably have some great

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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

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