This post was originally published on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and is co-authored by Elizabeth Russell. A clear definition of equity would seem paramount to galvanizing philanthropy into action around this increasingly used term-but the field is only beginning to explore what it really means. The term “equity” is spreading like wildfire in some philanthropic circles. It is showing up more and more in organizations’ mission and values statements. It is making its way into the titles of conferences, plenary and breakout sessions, and meetings at the national, state, and local levels. At a recent gathering of organizations working on issues surrounding boys and men of color, someone lamented that the word “equity” was being co-opted by organizations … Continue reading What the Heck Does “Equity” Mean?
In my experience, one thing holds philanthropists back from achieving dramatic impact on the issues and causes they care most about: They have a poverty mentality. It might seem like an oxymoron for people with wealth, or professional access to wealth, to experience a form of poverty, but hear me out. A poverty mentality in philanthropy is a belief that maintaining a Spartan operation equates to efficiency and effectiveness, and that you and/or your staff don’t deserve to invest in your own success. For example: Your executive director spends a significant portion of her time handling basic administrative activities, such as meeting logistics, travel reimbursement, taking minutes, and copyediting board dockets, leaving her less time to focus on strategy, planning, … Continue reading Embrace Abundance!
Once upon a time, it was unheard of for a foundation to engage in any kind of discourse involving public policy. Now, it’s becoming more and more commonplace, as foundations realize that in order to truly create positive change and address the various root causes of the issues they fund, policy must come into the picture. Several of our clients have engaged in policy successfully in a variety of ways. Some work well in advance of legislative activity, bringing issues to light and convening experts to brainstorm potential policy solutions. Others work to support nonprofit organizations in their own advocacy efforts. Still others work after policies are enacted to help support their implementation. Sometimes, foundations feel the need to speak … Continue reading Speaking with One Voice: 5 Tips for Joint Public Statements
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of things said about philanthropy. Many were spot on. Some were downright brilliant. A few were head scratchers. And then there are the ones that are so ridiculous they almost make you want to throw your hands up and walk away. Some of the statements below came from folks who were relatively new to the field, so perhaps they are somewhat excusable. Others, sadly, were from the lips of veterans who should know better. In any case, comments like the ones that follow make an excellent case for investing in ongoing professional development for our field, especially as more and more players come into it. #1: “Giving away money makes me feel like … Continue reading 5 Ridiculous Things Said About Philanthropy
I recently had breakfast with an old friend who is nearing the end of a five-month sabbatical from her job as a nonprofit executive director. It has been time well spent. She’s taken advantage of being away from a very stressful, time-consuming and labor-intensive job to relax, explore her creative side with writing and painting, spend quality time with her husband, and help her children with some key school-based transitions. She looks rested and says she feels great. She’s ready to go back to work…sort of. What’s making her pause? The realization that if she doesn’t change, nothing else will either. Her way of approaching her work is like many nonprofit and foundations leaders I know. She cares passionately about … Continue reading Want to Change Your Organization? Start with Yourself
In philanthropy, we are driven by the causes that matter to us and bolstered by the opportunity to generate meaningful change. For years, when I was out in the community or talking with my colleagues about the work of Blue Shield of California Foundation, I would rarely start by describing us as a “policy funder.” Instead, I would say that we aim to strengthen and transform the systems that support the health and safety of California’s most vulnerable populations. As I thought more about our programs and grant making and peeled back the many layers of “systems change,” I uncovered a policy framework upon which so much of our work relies. For us—and most foundations—strong policies are the infrastructure that … Continue reading An Underutilized Tool For Foundations—Policy Change
Over the past few years, I’ve been working with more and more foundations that choose to actively engage in public policy discussions as part of their missions. That’s encouraging, because when you get right down to it, nothing really changes unless public policy supports a change. But working in public policy can be messy, intimidating and often frustrating. Based on what we’ve helped our clients document about their policy work, here are three key things to remember before starting any policy effort. Engage multiple voices. No one person or organization has all the answers, and no single perspective or experience represents that of the group. The more voices you can engage, and the more varied the experiences and perspectives that … Continue reading Three Rules to Guide Foundation Policy Efforts
“Policy” is a four-letter word within many foundations. That’s probably because policy is a gateway to advocacy, which can lead to lobbying. And that, if done incorrectly, can land a foundation in trouble. Better just to steer clear. Or is it? Think about the work that you do on a daily basis to fight poverty, promote health, improve education, address any number of social ills. Then think about how many times you or those you work with have said, “You know, we wouldn’t have this problem if…” Chances are, whatever “if” is, it’s related to policy. That means if philanthropy is truly going to be effective, policy engagement may need to be part of the plan. We’ve been very fortunate … Continue reading “Policy” Shouldn’t Be a Four-Letter Word