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”
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”
It feels great to play Santa. If you celebrate Christmas, there’s nothing like a Christmas holiday to make you remember that giving is fun. You find a present, wrap it up nicely, see the joy and excitement on someone else’s face, and feel good about what you’ve done. For many philanthropists, it’s the same: you write a nice check, present it to a nonprofit, see the joy and excitement on their faces, smile for the camera, and then feel good about what you’ve done. But then what? The problem with Santa-style giving is that it’s a once-a-year gig. But during the other 364 days of the year, the organizations you’ve made grants to still have ongoing needs, unexpected challenges, and … Continue reading A Little Less Santa, A Little More Staying Power
Most of us are in the final throes of the holiday season and making final preparations for the end of the year. Instead of holiday carols, it may be an appropriate time to sing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like…. year-end donation season?!” That’s right, did you know half of all non-profits receive a majority of their annual donations between the months of October and December? Though many of us begin this season with good intentions, it’s easy to get caught up in its hurried demands, causing our shining dreams of intentional giving to morph into a scrambled, last minute flurry of check-signing to causes we barely recognize. Not this year! Here are three of the most common mistakes … Continue reading 3 Mistakes Year-End Donors Make and How to Avoid Them
When you think about your work in philanthropy, are you selling yourself short? If so, you could be shortchanging your foundation’s effectiveness – and therefore its mission – as well. Some of the most sincere people I know in philanthropy bring a very astute sense of servant leadership to their work. They always put the needs of others first and keep themselves humbly out of the spotlight. It’s an admirable mindset, but it also can be a symptom of approaching philanthropy from a poverty mentality rather than one of abundance. As I’ve written before, foundations with a poverty mentality believe that investing in their own infrastructure or capacity somehow robs those they serve. Foundations with an abundance mentality realize that … Continue reading Are You Selling Yourself Short?
Many quip that once you work for or serve on a foundation board, you never have to pay for lunch and everyone laughs at your jokes. While this observation is amusing, it is true that a very real power dynamic that exists between a foundation and the nonprofit community it serves. Nowhere is this power dynamic more apparent — and more dangerous — than between a board member and his or her community. Being in a position of power means that people are inclined to be more deferential to your opinion, even if they disagree. As a board, you must be your own critical thought partner and examine ideas — especially your own — from every angle. You must also … Continue reading Don’t Let It Go To Your Head – A Caution for Board Members
This is a guest post by Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink. Equity is a big, dynamic idea. The field — the universe of people working to create a just, fair society — is blossoming. Reading the provocatively titled blog post, “What the Heck Does Equity Mean?,” by Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Elizabeth Russell, I was struck by two thoughts. First, I am not surprised they found that a universal definition of equity is elusive. Second, I am not concerned. Rather, I am thrilled to see so many people and organizations embrace the hope of equity and grapple with the complexity of translating that hope into action. I am grateful to see people in philanthropy and beyond search for their … Continue reading Equity is…
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
There is a lot of talk in philanthropy about organizational culture in foundations. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a culture of disrespect when it comes to the way foundations deal with grantees, consultant partners, and even themselves. Luckily – in my experience – this is the exception not the norm. Still, it’s troubling. Here are three examples: A foundation colleague told me his foundation has a “culture of double booking meetings” including among their own staff. He said, for example, you might schedule an hour-long meeting with a colleague to discuss an important matter, and when the colleague shows up you learn you only have 10 minutes because she booked another meeting at the same time. … Continue reading A Culture of Disrespect in Philanthropy
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?