Billionaire Jeff Bezos’s recent Tweet for suggestions about how to give some of his fortune away has inspired several media stories, including commentary and an open letter to Jeff Bezos about focusing on immediate suffering vs. creating a long-term strategy. Where, how and in what a philanthropist chooses to invest his or her philanthropic capital are all extremely important decisions. For someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, like Bezos, those decisions will no doubt reflect some new and different thinking. For the field of philanthropy, where many giving practices are deeply entrenched and sometimes outdated, “new and different” can be a very good thing. But no matter where, how or for how long Bezos chooses to be charitable, and no matter whether his philanthropy is wildly unconventional … Continue reading Five Things Jeff Bezos Needs To Know Before Giving Away Billions
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. For example: Consider … Continue reading There’s a Philanthropy-Serving Organization for That!
Donors and foundation leaders often expect nonprofits to collaborate, but they less frequently turn that expectation on themselves. Yet there is tremendous opportunity to exponentially expand impact through funder collaboration. In fact, it is rare for an individual or a funder to produce meaningful research or develop an idea all alone. Collaboration allows for greater leverage of ideas, investments, and reach to better ensure that research is thorough and conclusive, and that new products or approaches work and are relevant to those they’re intended to serve. What does it mean to collaborate? Funder collaborations happen in many different ways, all of which leverage the strengths of each collaborative partner to achieve a common goal. Collaborations can be formal and complex, with written agreements and well-defined roles and … Continue reading Get in the Spirit of Collaboration
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?
It’s the nature of philanthropy to want to help. It’s what foundations were created to do. Yet all too often, foundations, corporate grantmakers, and donors unintentionally cause problems instead of helping to solve them. Even with the best intentions, foundations take actions that are counter to the outcome they – and their grantees – hope to achieve. Here are five common examples: 1. Providing short term funding for a long-term outcome. Most funders are loathe to commit to any one organization or initiative for more than a year or two. (In fact, if foundations were people, we’d call many of them commitment-phobes and recommend therapy!) Even when foundations have long-term goals like closing achievement gaps in schools or improving drinking … Continue reading 5 Ways Foundations Cause More Problems Than They Solve
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?
Are you a non-profit in need of funding? Colleagues of mine at TBA LLC are casting non-profit leaders to offer direct exposure to donors and funding sources in their television production. Casting closes September 20. If you are interested, click here to apply right (it’s super easy and quick). They will follow up with you to provide more information. Good luck! Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, is a philanthropy expert, speaker and advisor. Share
There are many rules of thumb and lists of best practices out there for grantmakers. Yet, so many grantmakers seem to get caught in ruts of practice and policy that hold them back from achieving the effectiveness and impact they want to deliver. Here are five of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen through my practice, and even seasoned grantmakers make them over and over again: 1 – Cutting yourself off from new ideas I believe in the power of strategic philanthropy – being focused on your goals and funding the strategies and practices that you believe will lead to the greatest impact. However, many strategic funders take this idea to the extreme and refuse to entertain new ideas, … Continue reading 5 Common Philanthropy Mistakes You Cannot Afford to Make
I recently stayed at the Charles Hotel near Harvard Square, and was delighted to see the “Web Cube” on my hallway on my way to my room. It’s essentially a large closet with a desk, computer, printer and free internet access, available to all guests on the floor. I assume each floor has them. What a brilliant improvement to an existing valuable resource: hotel business centers. We’ve all used hotel business centers and have encountered similar problems: finding them, using them during limited business hours, and planning our time so that we don’t have to go back and forth from our room to the business center and back. This web cube takes the customer experience to a new level. If … Continue reading Improve Your Philanthropic “Customer Experience”
Do you want to make a big splash with grant dollars, but you can only make a small gift? Not a problem! Some of the most effective change starts with a small grant. Follow a few simple strategies to create a ripple effect with a small gift. Here are 12 ideas to help you make a big impact. Educate yourself. Who else is funding your issue? What’s needed and what can you do? Devote a day to researching your topic, and identify relevant experts and foundation program officers. Call or e-mail them to learn more. Invest in a great leader. Identify leaders you believe in, then support them. For example, provide executive coaching or management training so they can build … Continue reading 12 Strategies for Spreading Your Small Grant Further