Grantmakers are always looking for impact. We define the quantitative outcomes we want to achieve with our funding. We collect qualitative evidence through stories of those whose lives are changed as a result of our work. But we often forget to look for and capture the “ripple effect” of the grants that we make. Here are two examples: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recently gave a grant to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County to update its business model. As part of that updating process, the Community Foundation is collecting and curating data about the business models of other community foundations across the country. They will share that information widely with their peers, who are hungry for it. Hence, … Continue reading Looking for Impact? Don’t Overlook the Ripple Effect
1. Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake. All efforts at innovation should be in pursuit of a compelling reason. Further, that compelling reason should align with a foundation’s mission and vision. While funding a new app may sound fun, if the new app doesn’t directly impact an audience or issue you’ve targeted, leave it to someone else. 2. Innovation doesn’t have to be a big deal. Effective innovations can be small but brilliant internal changes. For example, redefining a grant process with the grantee in mind instead of staff. It can also be as simple as an effort to shift perspective and look at your work from the outside in. 3. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Funders who innovate almost … Continue reading Innovation and Philanthropy: It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated!
I am surprised by how often grantmakers see their role as funder, but not as a provider of services for which there are customers. True, the philanthropic customer is different than a business customer. As a foundation, you’re not selling a consumer good, but you are selling ideas, change, and a belief that communities can and should become better. And just as a private business needs customers to buy its products or services to keep its operation going, foundations need customers to buy into their missions and be willing to work as partners to achieve them. Philanthropic customers include the nonprofits you serve, donors (especially if you’re a community foundation), community partners, and even other funders who might align their … Continue reading Take the Customer Service Challenge
You’re completely committed to supporting others with your giving, and you’re doing everything possible to ensure that every penny of your charitable assets is going directly to the nonprofits that need it. That’s how you ensure the most effective use of your philanthropy, right? Wrong. Squeezing every penny into the philanthropic pipeline isn’t the same thing as ensuring effectiveness. In fact, penny-pinching during the philanthropic process may do more harm than good to those you wish to serve. Many individuals and foundations think they’re being good and prudent stewards of charitable assets when in fact they are withholding investments that could open the doors to greater productivity and more access to additional philanthropic capital. I call this operating with a … Continue reading Is Your Giving Hampered By A Poverty Mentality?
“Philanthropy” is generally translated from its Latin roots as “the love of humankind.” That means we automatically assume that all philanthropists are motivated, at least to some degree, by a desire to make life better for others. We see this assumption at work across the philanthropic landscape, from generous individuals to ginormous foundations, all working to support nonprofit organizations that, in turn, help millions of people and address almost every kind of need imaginable. But too often, a philanthropist’s or foundation’s work and effectiveness, while generous in spirit, is confounded by the requirements and processes that the funder adopts — requirements and processes that make their nonprofit partners tear out their hair. It’s not the philanthropist’s intention to make life … Continue reading How Grantmakers Unwittingly Make Life Harder For Nonprofits
My firm recently helped the David and Lucille Packard Foundation conduct a series of small gatherings of funders to discuss the Foundation’s learnings from a seven-year investment in summer learning. (For more information about that initiative, download the summary report we created, or visit the Foundation’s website.) While the convenings were specific to the summer learning topic, I observed several actions within them that I’d consider best practices for using small group gatherings for intentional learning, no matter what the subject. 1. Keep it casual and comfortable. Each convening was intentionally small – no more than 20 people – which allowed participants to gather around a common table. This fostered a sense of intimacy and a conversational tone. In addition, the Foundation provided a … Continue reading 5 Tips for Using Simple Convenings for Intentional Learning
Donors and foundation leaders often expect nonprofits to collaborate, but they less frequently turn that expectation on themselves. Yet there is tremendous opportunity to exponentially expand impact through funder collaboration. In fact, it is rare for an individual or a funder to produce meaningful research or develop an idea all alone. Collaboration allows for greater leverage of ideas, investments, and reach to better ensure that research is thorough and conclusive, and that new products or approaches work and are relevant to those they’re intended to serve. What does it mean to collaborate? Funder collaborations happen in many different ways, all of which leverage the strengths of each collaborative partner to achieve a common goal. Collaborations can be formal and complex, with written agreements and well-defined roles and … Continue reading Get in the Spirit of Collaboration
“Innovation” is one of those terms with many connotations, so it’s important to consider what you mean when you use it in your philanthropy. If you don’t have a clear definition, it leaves the onus to define and deliver innovation completely up to others, or it implies that innovation is something that “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. Funders give little or no thought to how they expect grantees to be innovative – they certainly don’t help provide technical assistance or capacity support to help achieve innovation. And while everyone wants to … Continue reading Innovation is for Everyone
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?
My philanthropy advisory firm has been pursuing, studying and documenting equity within philanthropy. In this important step toward philanthropic progress, we are working on developing and discovering what equity means to funders, foundations and organizations, both individually and across the field. The following list is a variety of resources which we have found helpful in our ongoing study of equity, including many that we have authored! This list is periodically updated. Resources authored by Putnam Consulting Group: The Road to Achieving Equity: Findings and Lessons from a Field Scan of Foundations That Are Embracing Equity (full article)* The Road to Achieving Equity: 12 Findings from a Field Scan of Foundations That Are Embracing Equity (2-page summary)* What the Heck … Continue reading Equity Resources for Philanthropy