There’s a Philanthropy-Serving Organization for That!
Call ‘em what you want – in my 18 years advising foundations and philanthropists I’ve seen the terms “regional association of grantmakers,” “funder networks,” “affinity groups,” “philanthropy communities,” and more – and now the new term is “philanthropy-serving organization” (PSO). Whatever you call it, the value is timeless – bringing funders of
similar interests, types, sizes, and/or geographic locations together to network and learn from each other.
In my work advising foundation CEOs, I’ve noticed that as leaders transition to new roles and move to new organizations, and as foundation priorities and grantmaking strategies evolve, many funders fail to take advantage of – and sometimes fail to even notice – PSOs that might meet their evolving needs.
Consider the new CEO who moves from a large foundation to a small foundation. In his former job, he was highly involved in leadership roles in his regional association and some of the largest PSOs, but wasn’t even aware that there is a PSO specifically for small staffed foundations – Exponent Philanthropy. Using this PSO, he can discover and tap into resources that are tailor made for his new situation.
Or what about the foundation leader who quits to become a consultant? You might not be aware of the
National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, but this PSO brings philanthropy consultants and philanthropy leaders together to elevate the best of the field. Also, many regional and national associations of grantmakers allow consultants to join as members, including Philanthropy Ohio, Philanthropy New York, Northern California Grantmakers, Council on Foundations, National Center for Family Philanthropy, Exponent Philanthropy, and many more.
Or maybe a high-wealth donor needs a network of philanthropic-minded people who share her interest in impact investing. There are many organizations and conferences that might be of interest, such as Social Capital
Markets (SOCAP), Confluence Philanthropy, or the Global Impact Investing Network, to name a few. If there’s a common interest in the field, there’s probably a PSO to address it.
Luckily for us, finding PSOs doesn’t mean looking for a needle in a haystack. In the US, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers is re-positioning itself as the mother of all philanthropy-serving organizations and broadening its membership to include all manner of PSO members. Look for the launch of a new name at its annual conference in July. (While you are there, look for me — I’ll be leading a session!). On a global scale, WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support) is the home to PSOs around the world. These two organizations make it easy to find PSOs that may suit your purposes, simply by
looking at their membership lists.
So, if you find yourself in a new role or your foundation is launching new grantmaking programs, take some time to look around and find some new philanthropy hangouts. If you simply ask colleagues at foundations already working in your interest area for suggestions, and spend two hours looking online, you will likely identify new organizations that can help you quickly advance your work and your role in it.
And no matter where you are, your state or region likely has a regional association of grantmakers, and you should seriously consider joining it.
Of course, joining a new organization doesn’t necessarily mean ending your relationship with one in which you’re currently a member. Take a moment to re-assess whether your existing memberships are still a good fit and how to maximize the value they bring to you (and you to them). If it truly no longer aligns with your interests and needs, then it might be time to leave. But if you move from a large community foundation to a private family foundation in the same town, you likely will benefit from remaining in your regional association. If you left a large health foundation to take the helm at a new health legacy foundation, you likely will still benefit from membership in an organization like Grantmakers in Health. And if you left a program officer post to become CEO at a new foundation, you may
want to look for different content-related offerings and networks for CEOs within your PSO. You also may want to re-assess the member list and reach out to the people you might not have paid much attention to before –those whose foundations or roles are similar to your new post.
Bottom line? For almost any situation you may find yourself in, there’s likely a philanthropy-serving organization that can provide great value and resources to support you and your work. Why not take advantage of all they have to offer?