Category Archives: Strategy

What IS Delusional Altruism?

You may be suffering from it without even realizing it. Imagine this: You’re out at a fancy dinner. You’re dressed to the nines and looking absolutely fabulous. You’re witty and clever in your conversation. Simply put, you’re at the top of your game and feeling great. Then, you excuse yourself to visit the facilities. You look in the mirror and there it is . . . that big piece of spinach on your tooth that makes you look like the loser in a boxing match. You realize as your face turns beet red that everyone else at the table must have seen it, but they were too uncomfortable to say anything to you. Your lack of awareness has undermined what … Continue reading What IS Delusional Altruism?

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Shouting into the Mouth of a Cave

A colleague of mine recently forwarded a query from a funder that was looking to be more innovative in its grantmaking. This funder asked several questions of colleagues, such as: How many grantmaking staff do you have? How many grant cycles do you conduct each year? Do you offer grants for programs? Operations? Capacity building? As I considered this list, I confess I grew a bit frustrated. The person asking the questions was truly interested in being innovative, but the questions were all wrong. They were confined to the realm of what’s “normal” and what’s currently happening, rather than what was possible or wildly different. In addition, he’d only asked other funders, not anyone outside the field. Not surprisingly, the … Continue reading Shouting into the Mouth of a Cave

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6 Ways to Advocate for Policy Change

Are you missing a key chance to change policy? Most foundations know that they can’t lobby directly for a piece of legislation that is being considered by a lawmaking body. But before the legislative process around a new piece of public policy ever begins, foundations can be key players in shaping the landscape for that policy and building knowledge and momentum. On the other side of the legislative process, after a policy passes through legislation and becomes law, some of the harder and longer-term advocacy work begins as new policies are implemented. Here are six ways funders can support policy advocacy before and after the legislative process: 1) Establish a Vision. Foundations can use their convening power to bring together the … Continue reading 6 Ways to Advocate for Policy Change

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Are You In End-of-Year Panic?

3 things you can do to calm yourself down and meet your goals There are about 75 working days left until the end of the year, depending on how many holidays you celebrate. Even fewer if, like me, you take the last half of December off. The great news is that there is still plenty of time to meet your year-end goals! If you find yourself hyperventilating — or if you are understandably distracted by the many natural disasters and local and global crises we are experiencing across the globe — take some deep breaths and repeat after me: “I can do this.” Here’s what to do: 1. Identify the ONE thing you must accomplish before the end of the … Continue reading Are You In End-of-Year Panic?

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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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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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The Best Practices You Never Knew You Had

We often look to external sources for best practices, hoping that others have figured out the ideal way to accomplish something and we can simply duplicate it. But when is the last time you searched inside your organization for internal best practices? If the answer is rarely or never, read on! With a little time and intention, you can make dramatic improvements in your operations and grantmaking. Let me give you an easy example. Swimming is a regular part of my week day exercise routine. My pool is lucky to have a wonderful lifeguard named John. Whenever the lanes are full, John helps new swimmers identify a lane and asks the lane’s occupant it he or she would mind sharing. John’s friendly manner always solicits … Continue reading The Best Practices You Never Knew You Had

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5 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected

Unexpected events are a part of philanthropy, in much the same way surprise snows can be a part of spring. Depending on where you are and what you’re doing (and whether or not school is cancelled), that snow can be a blessing or a curse. For funders, unexpected events run the gamut from creating inconvenience to rocking entire worlds. Key staff may leave your team at a critical time. External forces (such as presidential elections, say) can make dramatic shifts in the environment in which your focus your giving. Or, as was the case with one foundation I’ve worked with, government leaders who were valuable partners for your initiative may end up in jail for corruption (completely unrelated to your … Continue reading 5 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected

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Who’s In The Room? Who Should Be?

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?

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Prudent Risk is Wise But Don’t “Bet the Farm”

If you’re familiar with research and development philanthropy, you know that when a foundation decides to invest in R&D, they must be willing to take risks. But not every research opportunity is a good one, and not every innovative idea should be pursued. In considering an R&D investment, assess each opportunity wisely and take risks that are prudent, calculated, and thoroughly explored. Likewise, don’t “bet the farm” on any single piece of research or in developing any individual idea, product, or service. Instead, think of each R&D investment as just one part of a diversified portfolio. There are four criteria that can help foundations assess risk in any R&D investment: 1. Cost. What investment will this require in terms of grants, … Continue reading Prudent Risk is Wise But Don’t “Bet the Farm”

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