By Justina Acevedo-Cross, Program Officer, & Jeff Sunshine, Program Officer, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation For just a moment, pretend you’re a public health official and you’re faced with stopping a new pandemic. You have a vaccine that mitigates the disease in one dose and completely cures it in two, but only enough to fully treat half the population. Do you treat everyone halfway or completely cure only half? This catch-22 situation also faces funders who want to see a good idea expand quickly. Do you roll out the basics of a successful program or idea as far and fast as you can to maximize access, knowing that you’ll sacrifice quality in the process? Or do you take your time and … Continue reading Guest Blog- Starting with Quality: A Decision Point for Summer
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
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?
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
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
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!
Over the last 15 years, I’ve consulted with a few clients who, in the midst of our strategic planning sessions or evaluation efforts, must deal with the added stress of handling conflict within their boards. At best, these conflicts are time- and energy-consuming hassles. At worst, they can derail an entire planning or implementation process or bring a foundation’s momentum to a screeching halt. I’m happy to report that extreme conflict is the exception rather than the rule. Most board members are rational, committed professionals. However, even among the most collegial boards there’s always the possibility of conflict, and savvy foundation leaders I know have used the following approaches to diffuse disagreement smoothly and quickly. Remain impartial. Never take sides. … Continue reading Boardroom Battles: 5 Ways to Move Beyond Conflict
There was a time not too long ago when you rarely heard the word “foundation” and “risk” in the same sentence…or paragraph…or entire document. Risk simply hasn’t been something formally and broadly associated with philanthropy over the past few decades. However, it’s become pretty obvious to many people that the traditional ways of grantmaking are not enough to make a dent in the entrenched and intertwined social challenges of poverty, inequity, education or healthcare. Yes, one can’t blame philanthropy alone and other sectors very much bear their share of responsibility and obligation. But philanthropy can afford to take some risks that other sectors can’t. The concept of philanthropic risk isn’t new; there have always been some foundations that are willing … Continue reading 3 Ways Foundations Squash Risk-Taking
It’s a new year filled with new opportunities for philanthropy. Now if we could all just get a handle on what they are and how to take advantage of them! There are many things unfolding in our world that will have an impact on our work this year, this decade and beyond. I’m not big on making predictions, but I do like to keep my eyes and ears open and track new developments carefully. That’s why I’m watching three trends this year that I think are especially relevant for my work and for the field of philanthropy. Trend #1 – Fragmentation of information. If you’ve not watched or read this fascinating conversation between NYT columnist Farhad Manjoo and Knight Foundation … Continue reading 3 Trends I’m Watching in 2016