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?
In the face of a rapidly changing policy environment that appears to sometimes question the values most philanthropists espouse (you know, things like justice, compassion, and honesty), it’s understandable if funders feel panicked, deflated, enraged, or all three simultaneously. Those are the emotions that many of my clients, from a full spectrum of political leanings, are sharing as they call me for advice on how to respond to the dramatic changes that are taking place our country. Regardless of one’s political beliefs, when everything seems to be in a state of upheaval (whether it’s federal policy or your own institutional politics) it pays to stop, take a deep breath, and stay focused on your mission. Here are 10 points to … Continue reading Keep Calm and Carry On (With Your Mission)
By all accounts, this year will be one of uncertainty the likes of which we’ve not seen in a while. Everyone is poised to see what a new presidency will bring. Our nation is on edge and some are even on high alert. If anything is certain, it is that change of some sort will come. As funders, we can’t ignore that fact that there are many “others” out there who don’t necessarily understand or agree with our work. The change that will come will no doubt have an impact on what we do. These “others” will have a significant bearing on our effectiveness. It’s understandable that many of us have been focused on serving specific populations, whether defined by … Continue reading This Year, Make a Point to Think About “The Others”
As I’ve often said, there are some stories of waste and counterproductivity in the foundation world that I simply couldn’t make up if I tried. This is one of those stories. Read it and see how many incidents of pointless bureaucracy and time-sucking processes you can find, then see if my list (below) matches yours. I recently was asked by a senior manager at a large foundation to submit a proposal. Time was of the essence, since the foundation’s annual budget year was about to end and this project needed to come in as part of the current budget. The senior manager’s assistant sent me a link to the foundation’s online portal to submit my proposal, which I did promptly. … Continue reading Bureaucratic Time-Suckers in Philanthropy
In my last post, I explained the ways that many individuals in foundations adopt a poverty mentality rather than an abundance mentality when it comes to their own personal activities. Many foundation staff and leaders sell themselves short and eschew the support they need for the sake of not taking precious resources away from others. But in doing so, they often undermine their effectiveness and that of their foundation. Support for your work is important. It allows you to maximize efficiency, gain valuable knowledge, create and leverage partners, explore creative solutions, and thereby promote and further the foundation’s mission. That support could take a number of forms, such as: An administrative support staff person A software upgrade Travel to a … Continue reading Making the Case For (Your Own) Support
Often in the world of philanthropy, the problems we wish to address seem overwhelmingly large and complex. And if you’re a small foundation, the scant assets you have to wage against the world of need can seem almost pointless. But as with any complex problem, the key is to break it down and examine its parts to discover that pivotal point where your action can begin to fuel a solution. One way to achieve big impact is by engaging in research and development (R&D) philanthropy. R&D philanthropy is planned, creative work aimed at discovering new knowledge or developing new and significantly improved goods and services to address an identified need. The ways in which foundations can engage in R&D philanthropy … Continue reading 12 Tools to Achieve Big Impact
Say you’re part of a new foundation, or one that is re-inventing itself, or even one that’s been around for a bit but has gotten a bit lethargic. You’re ready to step up, infuse energy into your work and rally community support. That’s fantastic! But you may also be somewhat fearful or hesitant. What if the community doesn’t like what you’re doing? What if your big idea or new direction doesn’t work? What if the community likes it too much and you’re overrun with demands and requests? These kinds of fears are normal. One important key to managing your foundation’s transition in a community is to manage – and then exceed – community expectations. Here are 8 tips to help … Continue reading Managing and Exceeding Community Expectations
Too often foundations request “innovative ideas” from their grantees but fail to accomplish the same thing internally — or even define what “innovation” means to them. The implied assumption is that innovation “just happens.” Further, lack of clear definition has come to imply that innovation must be a dramatic, game-changing, disruptive new idea or practice: the iPhone of early childhood education, the Post-It note of economic development. As a result, the expectations for innovation are both so high and so fuzzy that most people naturally feel intimidated, not realizing that they too can create innovations and that innovation is not the exclusive domain of those who are smarter or more creative. After reading a book called The Innovation Formula by business gurus Michel … Continue reading 4 Steps for Fostering Innovation
Foundations often expect nonprofits to collaborate, yet they less frequently turn that expectation on themselves. There is tremendous opportunity to exponentially expand the impact of your grantmaking through funder collaboration. If you’re just getting started in exploring collaboration, or want a refresher, here’s a quick look at the basics: What are the types of funder collaboration? Funder collaboration comes in all shapes and sizes, but in general there are three primary types: Shared learning. Funders come together to learn about latest topics and share experiences in a particular area of interest. Strategic alignment. Funders learn about and support various aspects of a shared agenda, such as a systemic change in a field or laying the groundwork for policy change, but … Continue reading Collaboration 101
Years ago, my father owned a company that made a business of storing information on microfiche. (Remember microfiche?) As the computer age dawned, he was definitely an early adopter and enthusiast in our home. He was swept up in the latest and greatest developments and it seemed as if he read everything published about computers and computing. He was caught up in all the chatter and noise about this new industry, but the irony is, he missed the one true signal he needed to hear: computers would revolutionize the information storage industry. If he had paid attention to the signal instead of the noise, perhaps his company would have been an industry leader today. But instead, he missed the opportunity … Continue reading What is Signal and What is Noise?