Category Archives: Philanthropy 411 Blog

6 Ways to Engage Your Stakeholders: Let the Key Players Improve Your Program’s Success

Key stakeholders have much to contribute to the decision-making process, and their involvement can dramatically improve the success of any funding program. We’ve identified six ways to engage stakeholders and benefit from their input. First, there are three types of stakeholders: Those most directly impacted by the problem you are trying to solve Those who are attempting to solve the problem Those who could be solving the problem with you, if they knew their role or realized that the problem exists All three categories of stakeholders can be discussed at greater length. For now, let’s take a look at how they can help you in your grantmaking. 1. Understanding In the early stages of your grantmaking and program development, you

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Invest in the Strategic Communications Capacity of Policy Grantees

This is a guest post by Lora Smith, Communications Officer at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. Public policy discussion has always been a cornerstone of American democracy. Policy change can’t happen without constructive public discourse and influence. Getting to that influence involves persuasive conversations and well-framed messages. Policy advocacy organizations must reach and effectively communicate to diverse audiences, and continually deliver compelling data and narratives in order to achieve their desired outcomes. At its very core, policy advocacy is an exercise in strategic communications. However, a recent report from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation finds that policy advocacy organizations may suffer from a lack of capacity when it comes to communications, frustrating their attempts to change conversations and ultimately change

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The Power of a Communications Plan: Why You Need One Now, and How to Get It Rolling

One of the most important — yet overlooked and underestimated — actions foundations can take to ensure the success of their grantmaking initiatives is to develop and implement a comprehensive communications plan. Believe me, I know that this is tough to do at the beginning of your grantmaking program, when you’re in the middle of planning and launching. But I also guarantee you that if you don’t prioritize communications planning now, you’re going to pay the price later, when your grantees and partners aren’t coordinated and stakeholders and other funders are confused by what you’re trying to do. The good news is that there are three simple things you can do immediately: Make communications a priority right now. This can’t

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Oops, I Forgot to Evaluate! 3 Easy Steps for Retrospectively Evaluating Your Funding Initiative

It’s year five of your five-year funding initiative, and you need to report progress to your board. You’re thinking, “Darn, I wish I had included evaluation planning when we developed this initiative. Now I’d have a better way to show our results.” Sound familiar? Don’t worry; you aren’t alone. Many funders don’t fund or even think about evaluation at the outset. However, there are three things you can do retrospectively to learn from the past and inform your future. I recommend enlisting the help of an external evaluation consultant, who will be more objective, will be able to devote the time needed, and will be more likely to elicit honest feedback from grantees and stakeholders. Conducting a retrospective evaluation is

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Call for Papers On Philanthropy Consulting

The Foundation Review has issued a Call for Papers for an issue focused on philanthropy consulting. The March 2015 themed issue, co-edited by the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers,  will explore quality, trends and impact in a significant component of philanthropic practice. Abstracts of up to 250 words are due by May 15, 2014. If a full paper is invited, it will be due by August 15, 2014 for consideration for publication. Papers are invited on topics including, but not limited to: Scope and scale. To what extent do grantmakers and funder networks retain consultants, and for what purposes? Role. Why do foundations hire philanthropy consultants? What are the roles of philanthropy consultants? How do roles vary by grantmaker

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One Question Guaranteed to Save Funders Time and Money, and Achieve Results

In my experience, the most effective foundations do one thing without fail – they ask the question guaranteed to save time and money, and achieve results. That question is this: “If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?” If you ask that question of your grantees, other organizations working on the same issue, and other foundations that have attempted to do what you’re trying to do, I guarantee you will reap the benefits. Listen to what they have to say, implement their suggestions, and you will save your foundation staff time, financial resources, and headaches. You will also have a much more successful grantmaking program, and it will happen much faster than if you hadn’t asked

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4 Ways To Improve Your Grantmaking

Last week I announced many changes at Putnam. We’ve updated our name (Putnam Consulting Group) and our website (putnam-consulting.com). Best of all, we’ve created a host of new resources to help our philanthropy clients and colleagues ask deeper questions, explore new possibilities, and achieve dramatic results with their grantmaking. Tapping into all this knowledge is easy. Below are four ways to learn something new that you can put to work right away: Read a blog post. The Philanthropy 411 blog is as robust as ever, with thought provoking ideas and insights from myself, my clients and other philanthropy experts. Read the latest posts; gain quick tips with 10 Ways to Shape Your Foundation’s Newest Grantmaking Initiative and learn how to respond to challenging questioners with The Interrogation Principle. Have

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10 Ways to Shape Your Foundation’s Newest Grantmaking Initiative

One reason we are involved in grantmaking is to be a part of making local, state, national, and global change from the ground up. Grantmakers often see real need for change in programs and services, or they see places where new programs and services will make all the difference. The key to creating real change is understanding and preparing for the complexities of a grantmaking initiative before diving in. Careful planning, focused relationship building, and a little thirst for adventure can help you take your next grantmaking initiative to new heights while respecting the boundaries of budgets, staff, and other limited resources. Here are some tips on getting started with your next initiative. Anticipate ongoing complexity. Grantmaking initiatives often spring from

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The Interrogation Principle

Every once in awhile we are thrown totally off guard by what someone says to us. If we can remember what I call the “Interrogation Principle,” we can regain our composure, buy ourselves a few moments of time, and respond in a way that advances our goals. I recently sat in the office of a senior leader at a large, well-known international foundation. Foundation management was interested in hiring a consultant to help them plan a grantmaking program, and I had traveled at my own expense to learn about their objectives and determine whether I might be the right fit. This particular woman was not into niceties and jumped right into the discussion. Early in the conversation she asked me

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5 Tips for Strategic Grantmaking

Today I was fortunate to listen to a terrific webinar on the “Unique Challenges of Strategy for Foundations” provided by the Phil Buchanan and Ellie Buteau  of the Center for Effective Philanthropy as part of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers webinar series. Here are 5 tips I heard on the webinar that I think are helpful for any foundation – large or small,  global or local, those seeking to become strategic for the first time, and those seeking to sharpen or modify their strategies. Don’t worry about being unique, focus on being effective. Foundations aren’t competing with each other the way McDonalds and Burger King are. If the foundation down the street or across the country is achieving

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