Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

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

read more >

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

read more >

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

read more >

Q1: The Key to Your Best Year Ever

I’ve spoken with dozens of philanthropy leaders in the first three weeks of 2015. Most entered the New Year running out the gate and are starting to feel overwhelmed. A few are experiencing a sluggish start. But they are equally overwhelmed because they aren’t sure where to begin.  In my experience, a productive first quarter of the year will lead to a successful, fun, and easier remainder of the year. Feeling behind? The great news is you still have 2 months left in Q1! You can answer these three questions to help you get started. 1. What are my top 3 priorities for 2015? (If you find it hard to pick only three, you can ask my favorite question: If I

read more >

Step Over Inert Bodies

“It takes awhile before you can step over inert bodies and go ahead with what you were trying to do.” I first read this quote from artist Jenny Holzer while visiting the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. I think it offers profound advice for us, both in life and professionally as grantmakers. How often have you: Dated someone who never quite got around to making something of life (getting a job, seeking promotion, finishing graduate school, etc.)? Had a friend who never seemed happy when your life was going well (new job, birth of a child), because she was never happy with hers? Wondered why a parent told you how much she loved you, but her actions never felt loving? Similarly, as a

read more >

Do You Have a Poverty or Abundance Mentality?

I’ve spoken with thousands of foundation leaders over the past 15 years, and I’ve found that one thing that holds many back from achieving the dramatic success and deep impact that they seek. They have a poverty mentality. A poverty mentality is a belief that money should not be spent on internal investment unless the need is urgent, opportunities are limited by capacity, improvement is always incremental, we should do more with less, and we don’t deserve the best, fastest, or most efficient path to success. It is based on fear of failure and a misguided belief that maintaining a Spartan operation equates to delivering value for grantees and communities. An abundance mentality is a belief that internal investment is

read more >

5 Questions to Improve Your Philanthropic Giving in 2015

Ready or not, 2015 is here! If you want to achieve dramatic results this year (and who doesn’t?) ask yourself these 5 questions: What can I learn in the next three months that will improve my grantmaking for the remainder of the year? You might need to conduct an evaluation, retain an expert advisor, or spend the day reading articles and listening to podcasts about a certain topic. Armed with new insight, you will be better prepared to allocate your talent, time and resources, and achieve more dramatic results. What holds me back? Identify and eliminate it. If you are overwhelmed by email, commit to reaching “Inbox Zero” by the end of January. Do you have a poverty mentality, believing

read more >

1 Mistake Family Foundations Should Avoid

A new, large family foundation is about to hire its first executive. The foundation board thinks “any manager”, a bank executive, or a business consultant would be perfectly qualified for the job – no philanthropy experience necessary. Sound familiar? Too often smart and talented people are extraordinarily successful in business, and then fail to apply their smarts to their philanthropic giving. I advised them to ask the following three questions: 1 – What is the business that allowed the donor to create so much wealth that he or she could start a foundation? Whatever it is, how successful would it have been if they had handed the role of CEO over to a banker or “any manager” with no experience

read more >

Clarity Trumps Strategy

I’m a highly organized person, and can spend endless hours creating strategies, with corresponding tactics, timelines and to-do lists. But in my experience, one thing trumps strategy: clarity. You can have all the strategies, logic models, and theories of change in the world, but you won’t get far if you aren’t crystal clear inside your head about what you are trying to accomplish. Let me give you two quick examples from my life, neither of which have anything to do with philanthropy. Many years ago I was in an unhealthy relationship. For five years. Thousands of dollars of therapy later, it wasn’t until I had clarity that this person wasn’t going to change, I needed to get out, and I

read more >

The Value of Appreciating, and Letting Go, of Your Past

I recently gave away my kitchen table to my stepson. My motives were part altruistic (he needed one) and part selfish (great excuse to buy myself a new one!). But I did not expect the wave of sadness I felt as a result.  I’ve had this kitchen table since my mid twenties. I remember my mom buying it for me from Pottery Barn, its location in the kitchen of my San Francisco apartment, and all the people I’ve had over for dinner around that table. The table has seen me through five relationships, three moves, over 20 parties, and countless life changes. I sat at that table crying after I put my cat to sleep. I started my consulting business

read more >