Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

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 >

Don’t Need a Consultant? 5 Good Reasons You Might Be Wrong

Foundation and nonprofit staff are spread thin enough. And sometimes expecting hardworking staff to strategize and carry through an entirely new project, on top of handling their ongoing responsibilities, is asking too much. Consultants can take some of the burden off of staff while providing a new perspective and expertise. They may also increase your organization’s credibility. Here are the five reasons most foundations and nonprofits enlist the help of outside consultants. 1. Time. Staff temporarily busy, or not enough staff? A consultant can fill in for a staff member on leave or serve as a “staff extender” to an existing team. For example, one of my family foundation clients was growing quickly. The CEO planned to hire more program officers

read more >

Sometimes We All Need Encouragement

I saw this sign yesterday morning on my way to Erie Island Coffee, one of my favorite coffee shops in Rocky River, Ohio,  and laughed out loud. Sometimes we all need a little encouragement and appreciation, not matter how small our accomplishment! Who could you give some encouragement to today? Your toddler who tried picking out his own clothes? An intern who took initiative? Your partner who launched his own business? A grantee who is persevering despite setbacks? I am sure they will appreciate it, and you will feel good too.

read more >

10 Tips for Successful RFP Management

The Request for Proposals (RFP) is essential to the way many organizations make grants – so improvements in the RFP process can have a profound impact on grantmaking success. Over the years, my experience and research have revealed 10 steps a funder can take to help make RFPs successful: 1. Be crystal clear on what you want to accomplish with your funding initiative. This means understanding your vision, your mission, your objectives and strategies, and what dollar amount you want to use to achieve your goals. 2. Envision your ideal applicants. Who do you want to apply for this funding initiative? What kind of organizations? What skill level and experience do they need to have? Do you want an organization

read more >

6 Steps to Launch Your Next Funding Initiative

Many foundations pour money down the drain by launching grant programs without first doing their homework. Funders should understand the needs of the issue or population they want to help, identify best practices and models that are already demonstrating success, and find the right partners to help them succeed. Here are the minimum things you should know: 1. Understand current needs and challenges. You need to understand the scope and scale of the problem. How many and what types of people are affected? What impact is this having right now on families, communities, health care centers, or the local economy? Where, geographically, is this problem the greatest? 2. Anticipate future needs. You need to anticipate what is likely to happen

read more >

What Message Are You Sending To Grantees?

If I had a career do-over, I might choose to be a signage expert. I am constantly appalled by poor signage, and occasionally impressed by excellent signage. To me, useful, informative, and strategically placed signs are one way for people to be kind to each other.  “We’re thrilled you chose come to Stanford University’s campus, our signs will help you find your way.” “Road closed ahead? Don’t worry, our signs will provide turn by turn directions and  explain how we are redirecting you.” Good signs  signal “we’re glad to have you,” “we care about you and your experience,” “put your feet up and relax.”  Bad signs tell us we aren’t wanted, our experience doesn’t matter, nobody cares. A few days

read more >

3 Reasons to Evaluate Your Grantmaking

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 >