You’re completely committed to supporting others with your giving, and you’re doing everything possible to ensure that every penny of your charitable assets is going directly to the nonprofits that need it. That’s how you ensure the most effective use of your philanthropy, right? Wrong. Squeezing every penny into the philanthropic pipeline isn’t the same thing as ensuring effectiveness. In fact, penny-pinching during the philanthropic process may do more harm than good to those you wish to serve. Many individuals and foundations think they’re being good and prudent stewards of charitable assets when in fact they are withholding investments that could open the doors to greater productivity and more access to additional philanthropic capital. I call this operating with a … Continue reading Is Your Giving Hampered By A Poverty Mentality?
We all talk about big data, evaluation, dashboards and bench marks. But we tend to collect a lot of data and then end up unsure about what to do with it. Most of the time, it’s just 20% of the data that provide us with 80% of the information we need to make better decisions. Let me share a recent example of what I mean. I walked into the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto CA one morning for coffee. As I was drinking it, I heard the front desk clerk answer the phone, say “Yes, 72% and 395…you’re welcome,” and then hang up. I asked her what the numbers were for. She explained the hotel is at 72% capacity … Continue reading What Are Your Two Key Indicators?
My firm recently helped the David and Lucille Packard Foundation conduct a series of small gatherings of funders to discuss the Foundation’s learnings from a seven-year investment in summer learning. (For more information about that initiative, download the summary report we created, or visit the Foundation’s website.) While the convenings were specific to the summer learning topic, I observed several actions within them that I’d consider best practices for using small group gatherings for intentional learning, no matter what the subject. 1. Keep it casual and comfortable. Each convening was intentionally small – no more than 20 people – which allowed participants to gather around a common table. This fostered a sense of intimacy and a conversational tone. In addition, the Foundation provided a … Continue reading 5 Tips for Using Simple Convenings for Intentional Learning
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
On a recent trip to Mexico City, I was delighted to find a Starbucks right next door to my hotel. For a moment, I felt sort of guilty that I was being an imperialist coffee drinker and that I should go find an amazing Mexican coffee experience to try. But a quick gut check proved the opposite: I was jet lagged from an ill-advised red eye flight from San Francisco, and my priority was caffeine in the form of coffee that I could depend on. I like Starbucks’ Pikes Place blend and I needed the comfort and reliability of its consistent quality. A few weeks later, I was walking in Palo Alto to — you guessed it — a Starbucks. I walked … Continue reading Why Consistent Quality is Key to Your Philanthropic Relationships
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
“Innovation” is one of those terms with many connotations, so it’s important to consider what you mean when you use it in your philanthropy. If you don’t have a clear definition, it leaves the onus to define and deliver innovation completely up to others, or it implies that innovation is something that “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. Funders give little or no thought to how they expect grantees to be innovative – they certainly don’t help provide technical assistance or capacity support to help achieve innovation. And while everyone wants to … Continue reading Innovation is for Everyone
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?
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”
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)