Category Archives: communication

Who’s In The Room? Who Should Be?

Bringing people together is one of the key roles of philanthropy. Foundations are especially suited to convene those with similar interests and shared goals, as well as those with differing viewpoints who need to find common ground. And within foundations themselves – especially those with larger staffs – bringing diverse and inclusive teams together to explore a new initiative, create a strategic plan, check in on progress, or reflect on evaluation results can help spur new ideas and more effective actions. As I’ve worked with dozens of foundation staffs and boards, the notion of inclusion seems to be alive and well. In fact, in some cases, the internal and external gatherings hosted by foundations can be almost too inclusive. To be … Continue reading Who’s In The Room? Who Should Be?

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Remember to Say Thank You

There is a lot of angst flying around these days. Uncertainty on the national stage and in our home communities seems to have everyone on edge. Those kinds of feelings tend to make one more inwardly focused and protective. While that’s only natural – a kind of a self-preservation response – it won’t do any of us any good. Withdrawing into ourselves won’t make us easier to get along with, or make us safer, or even make us feel any better. You know what will? Letting others know you care about them and appreciate what they do. Reaching out can be as simple as saying “thank you” to those who work beside you every day, or who amplify your philanthropic … Continue reading Remember to Say Thank You

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This Year, Make a Point to Think About “The Others”

By all accounts, this year will be one of uncertainty the likes of which we’ve not seen in a while. Everyone is poised to see what a new presidency will bring. Our nation is on edge and some are even on high alert. If anything is certain, it is that change of some sort will come. As funders, we can’t ignore that fact that there are many “others” out there who don’t necessarily understand or agree with our work. The change that will come will no doubt have an impact on what we do. These “others” will have a significant bearing on our effectiveness. It’s understandable that many of us have been focused on serving specific populations, whether defined by … Continue reading This Year, Make a Point to Think About “The Others”

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Don’t Believe the “Complexifiers”

In my first attempt to hire my own financial advisor in my late 20s, I turned to Morgan Stanley in San Francisco. I interviewed two people.  One had a slide show presentation and overflowing binders of charts and graphs showing me how they informed his decisions, his track record, how this and that outperformed that and the other. I had little idea as to what he was talking about but I figured he must have known his stuff because he could prove it on an XY axis. The second person, a woman, looked at me straight in the eye and said “This is not all that complicated.” I was shocked. How could it not be complicated? I didn’t understand it. … Continue reading Don’t Believe the “Complexifiers”

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Bureaucratic Time-Suckers in Philanthropy

As I’ve often said, there are some stories of waste and counterproductivity in the foundation world that I simply couldn’t make up if I tried. This is one of those stories. Read it and see how many incidents of pointless bureaucracy and time-sucking processes you can find, then see if my list (below) matches yours. I recently was asked by a senior manager at a large foundation to submit a proposal. Time was of the essence, since the foundation’s annual budget year was about to end and this project needed to come in as part of the current budget. The senior manager’s assistant sent me a link to the foundation’s online portal to submit my proposal, which I did promptly. … Continue reading Bureaucratic Time-Suckers in Philanthropy

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The Power of Small

I’ve been thinking small lately. To be specific, I’ve been thinking about small foundations and the immense power they hold. I’ve just finished presenting at Exponent Philanthropy’s conference and met a number of highly engaged and courageous small-foundation grantmakers who are eager to tap into their own power for change. I led a workshop for about 100 of these grantmakers and explored various ways in which they can make a huge difference with relatively small investments. We talked about tactics like funding research, using their convening power, seeding innovation and funding advocacy. These aren’t new strategies. In truth, these and many other approaches are available to small and large grantmakers alike. But there’s one area where small foundations lead the … Continue reading The Power of Small

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Creativity is the Missing Ingredient

  This is a guest post by Allen Smart, vice president of programs, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. In a New York Times opinion piece earlier this year by Dr. Adam Grant, a Wharton management and psychology professor, Grant put forward the argument that real innovation comes not from endless practice and refinement but from creating a space for children, in this case, “to think for themselves” and to find “joy in work.” Further, Grant writes that adults’ creative contributions depend on “the breadth, not just the depth, of our knowledge and experience.” These concepts also ring true for philanthropy. We are in the midst of what feels like a downward spiral that started with measurement and return on investment; took … Continue reading Creativity is the Missing Ingredient

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The Art of Streamlining

Much has been written about efforts to “streamline” foundation application processes – reducing the number of hoops applicants must jump through, right-sizing applications to the grant amounts, and asking questions in such a way that the answers are truly useful for funder decision making. But extraordinary grantmakers move beyond streamlining applications and grant reports to reviewing every aspect of their internal operations to identify opportunities to streamline. They audit their operations to find unnecessary blockages, duplication, wasted efforts, and barriers to impact. Why? Consider what the following examples of inefficiency might do reduce productivity or effectiveness: A foundation assigns six different staff members to review and edit a simple four-page case study. A funder requires staff to issue RFPs every … Continue reading The Art of Streamlining

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Kris Putnam-Walkerly Named “Top 25 Philanthropy Speaker”

This week, I’m taking a quick time-out from my regular blog posts to share some exciting news. I am honored to have been named one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers by Philanthropy Media! I was chosen from a survey of more than 25,000 philanthropy experts who submitted more than 1,000 names. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I’m both thrilled and humbled to share this news with you. What’s best about this news is that I truly love speaking about philanthropy and helping philanthropic audiences understand how to do the work of grantmaking more efficiently and effectively. In fact, I’m eager to do more of it! If you’re looking for a speaker for your board, conference, or … Continue reading Kris Putnam-Walkerly Named “Top 25 Philanthropy Speaker”

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3 Ways Foundations Squash Risk-Taking

There was a time not too long ago when you rarely heard the word “foundation” and “risk” in the same sentence…or paragraph…or entire document. Risk simply hasn’t been something formally and broadly associated with philanthropy over the past few decades. However, it’s become pretty obvious to many people that the traditional ways of grantmaking are not enough to make a dent in the entrenched and intertwined social challenges of poverty, inequity, education or healthcare. Yes, one can’t blame philanthropy alone and other sectors very much bear their share of responsibility and obligation. But philanthropy can afford to take some risks that other sectors can’t. The concept of philanthropic risk isn’t new; there have always been some foundations that are willing … Continue reading 3 Ways Foundations Squash Risk-Taking

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