Category Archives: Philanthropy

How Adaptable Are You?

Everyone relies on standard ways of doing things. From getting kids out the door to school or making the next big grant, we all need processes and systems that help us remember what’s next, what’s to be expected, and how to move forward. But sometimes things change, and we need to be able to change as well to accommodate a new short-term situation or a new long-term reality. Here’s a personal example. A few weeks ago I went to the hair salon for my standard cut and color (not that I’m going gray or anything). My tight schedule meant I couldn’t see my regular stylist. It was the morning of an international flight and my primary goal was speed and … Continue reading How Adaptable Are You?

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Is Your Giving Hampered By A Poverty Mentality?

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?

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How To Choose The Right Philanthropic Advisor

There are many people in the world who offer advice and guidance to people with means, especially when it comes to how one can best make more money. A wide range of specialized experts and advisors will gladly share their insights to make your decision-making process easier. Business consultants may help you set up a family office or expand your personal empire. Wealth advisors and financial planners help you enhance your earnings. Tax advisors help you protect your assets. These people can all be valuable resources and allies for growing your wealth, but what happens when you’re ready to give money away? Distributing wealth is a very different practice from earning it. The core practices and the nuances of philanthropic … Continue reading How To Choose The Right Philanthropic Advisor

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How Grantmakers Unwittingly Make Life Harder For Nonprofits

“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

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What Are Your Two Key Indicators?

We all talk about big data, evaluation, dashboards and bench marks. But we tend to collect a lot of data and then end up unsure about what to do with it. Most of the time, it’s just 20% of the data that provide us with 80% of the information we need to make better decisions. Let me share a recent example of what I mean. I walked into the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto CA one morning for coffee. As I was drinking it, I heard the front desk clerk answer the phone, say “Yes, 72% and 395…you’re welcome,” and then hang up. I asked her what the numbers were for. She explained the hotel is at 72% capacity … Continue reading What Are Your Two Key Indicators?

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Five Things Jeff Bezos Needs To Know Before Giving Away Billions

Billionaire Jeff Bezos’s recent Tweet for suggestions about how to give some of his fortune away has inspired several media stories, including commentary and an open letter to Jeff Bezos about focusing on immediate suffering vs. creating a long-term strategy. Where, how and in what a philanthropist chooses to invest his or her philanthropic capital are all extremely important decisions. For someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, like Bezos, those decisions will no doubt reflect some new and different thinking. For the field of philanthropy, where many giving practices are deeply entrenched and sometimes outdated, “new and different” can be a very good thing. But no matter where, how or for how long Bezos chooses to be charitable, and no matter whether his philanthropy is wildly unconventional … Continue reading Five Things Jeff Bezos Needs To Know Before Giving Away Billions

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Can You Improve Just a Smidgen?

Hint: The answer is yes. By now you probably know two things about me: I travel frequently, and I’m addicted to good coffee – especially first thing in the morning. So you can understand my delight to find a high-quality coffee service right on my hotel floor this morning! This was no in-room filter pack situation. To me, that’s like offering stale saltines to an artisan baker. I pass that up unless I’m completely desperate. But I also am reluctant to make myself presentable first thing upon waking just to go down multiple floors to a hotel lobby or a Starbuck’s to get the good stuff. On most trips, I actually bring a single-cup coffee maker with me on my … Continue reading Can You Improve Just a Smidgen?

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5 Tips for Using Simple Convenings for Intentional Learning

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

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Five Ways To Position Your New Foundation For Success

You’re about to start on a new philanthropic adventure with a brand-new foundation. Perhaps it’s a family foundation that you’ve just created. Perhaps you’re taking the reins of a new corporate philanthropy. Or maybe you’re part of an exciting transition of assets from the sale of a public hospital into a new foundation. Whatever the circumstances, there are five key questions you can ask yourself now that will set your foundation on a successful course. 1. Is a foundation the best charitable-giving vehicle for us? Individuals who have created great wealth often want to establish foundations as a way to extend the family legacy into philanthropic endeavors. It is natural to want one’s name to live on and be honored with … Continue reading Five Ways To Position Your New Foundation For Success

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Bureaucracy Whack-a-Mole

Summertime always reminds me of beach movies set on the Jersey Shore. There’s always a boardwalk with an ice-cream stand, a Ferris wheel, and an arcade with lots of lights and sounds. And in that arcade, you can bet there’s an old-school game of “Whack-a-Mole.” For the uninitiated, Whack-a-Mole is a game in which an automated “mole” pops its head up and quickly ducks back down into a series of holes. The mole appears randomly and suddenly, while the player attempts to bash it with a mallet. Points accrue when mallet meets mole. The higher the skill level, the faster the mole’s movements. It occurs to me that the mole is a fitting metaphor for the bureaucracy that often invades … Continue reading Bureaucracy Whack-a-Mole

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