Category Archives: consultant

From Well Done to What’s Next

As some of you may have noticed, I recently was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame by my own mentor and advisor, Alan Weiss, Ph.D. This honor was especially gratifying – not because of the fanfare but because, just like most people, I like to know that the work I’ve put into something (in this case, my consulting practice) has paid off. Over the last decade, I’ve invested hours of my time and a good amount of my own money in my personal professional development, striving to become the most effective and valuable philanthropy advisor I can be. I’ve learned one-on-one from top global consultants, improved my consulting practice by honing in on key strengths and opportunities, … Continue reading From Well Done to What’s Next

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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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Changing the Story of Summer

  This is a guest post by Michael Funk.  It was originally published on the csba blog, and is reposted here with his permission. Which sounds more appealing to you for a summer activity: sitting in a stuffy school classroom doing remedial work, or hopping on a bus with your friends to go chase minnows in a nearby river? The traditional paradigm for summer learning has been the former, and it’s felt like a punishment. At the California Department of Education, we’re working to change that paradigm and write a new narrative about a summer that is as engaging as it is educational. The need for summer learning opportunities is clear. Research is proving, time and again, that a vibrant … Continue reading Changing the Story of Summer

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What Respectful Philanthropy Looks Like

Last week, I wrote about the small – but troubling – culture of disrespect that I’ve observed bubbling up in the field of philanthropy. In that post, I shared examples of grantmakers who disrespected colleagues, grantees and partners by doing things like intentionally double-booking their calendars, purposefully making grant applications lengthy, or refusing to shoulder their share of the cash flow. I also said that the culture of disrespect is still the exception rather than the rule. This week, I’d like to share a shining example of what respectful philanthropy can look like. This example comes from one of my clients, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. It’s a statement of Grantee Experience Standards that the Foundation developed after asking … Continue reading What Respectful Philanthropy Looks Like

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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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Strategic, Responsive, or Both?

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about funders weighing the options between strategic grantmaking and responsive grantmaking. The general angst seems to come from a sense that all funding must be strategic in order to make a difference. While it’s true that strategic philanthropy (as described below) can lead to broader or deeper outcomes, there is a time and a place for both. Let’s take a look at each: Responsive grantmaking is being open to receiving proposals and ideas from any nonprofit, and allowing the nonprofits to drive the agenda. Requests are initiated by the nonprofit, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but that within those … Continue reading Strategic, Responsive, or Both?

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4 Steps for Fostering Innovation

Too often foundations request “innovative ideas” from their grantees but fail to accomplish the same thing internally — or even define what “innovation” means to them. The implied assumption is that innovation “just happens.” Further, lack of clear definition has come to imply that innovation must be a dramatic, game-changing, disruptive new idea or practice: the iPhone of early childhood education, the Post-It note of economic development. As a result, the expectations for innovation are both so high and so fuzzy that most people naturally feel intimidated, not realizing that they too can create innovations and that innovation is not the exclusive domain of those who are smarter or more creative. After reading a book called The Innovation Formula by business gurus Michel … Continue reading 4 Steps for Fostering Innovation

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Collected Wisdom for Grantmakers

This week, instead of sharing one point of wisdom, I’d like to share many – 46 of them, in fact. That’s how many entries you’ll find in my newly published book, Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders. Why write a book? While a blog is great for sharing advice and helpful content in small, quick bursts of content, it also helps to have wisdom collected all in one place. This is true for just about any topic. As a parent, I value little pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up here and there from friends and relatives, but there’s a reason why Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care is one of the top-selling books of all time. As a consultant, I use … Continue reading Collected Wisdom for Grantmakers

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Five ways to avoid delusional altruism

This post was originally published on Smart Business.  It is reposted here with permission. Good businesses pride themselves on the good they do for others, both in terms of their products and services and in the way they give back to their communities. However, in my 16 years of experience advising corporate, institutional and individual philanthropists, I’ve found that many suffer from delusional altruism. Delusional altruism is when you are genuinely trying to help people — but paying absolutely no attention to the operational inefficiency and waste that drains those you’re trying to help or your own company or corporate foundation of the human and financial capital necessary to accomplish these goals. Let me give you two common examples of delusional altruism … Continue reading Five ways to avoid delusional altruism

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Collaboration 101

Foundations often expect nonprofits to collaborate, yet they less frequently turn that expectation on themselves. There is tremendous opportunity to exponentially expand the impact of your grantmaking through funder collaboration. If you’re just getting started in exploring collaboration, or want a refresher, here’s a quick look at the basics: What are the types of funder collaboration? Funder collaboration comes in all shapes and sizes, but in general there are three primary types: Shared learning. Funders come together to learn about latest topics and share experiences in a particular area of interest. Strategic alignment. Funders learn about and support various aspects of a shared agenda, such as a systemic change in a field or laying the groundwork for policy change, but … Continue reading Collaboration 101

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