Why philanthropic giving is a smart investment tool for business. Socially conscious investors are after more than just financial returns. In addition to making money in the markets, we also want to make a difference. We want to leave a legacy of not just wealth but positive change. However, in our quest to be socially conscious change creators, we often overlook the power of one key asset: our philanthropy. For most people, philanthropy is the money we give away when we’re finished investing and earning in other areas. It’s a separate category — not just on our tax returns or financial planning documents, but also in our heads. The idea that one makes money first, then gives it away is … Continue reading Philanthropy — The Forgotten Investment Asset
I just got back from my family’s annual month-long vacation to Chautauqua Institution, New York. In between long walks with my husband, taking our kids boating on Lake Chautauqua, and countless dinner parties with friends, I was retained by three new clients, booked a speaking engagement, became a “practical advice” content partner to Alliance Magazine (the leading magazine for the global philanthropic sector), and was asked to be the new “international expert on strategic philanthropy” for an online European philanthropy news outlet (more on that in the coming months). Sounds like a pretty productive vacation, right?! I’m often asked by my advising and coaching clients how they can create a better “work-life balance.” And I share the advice I’ve learned … Continue reading Get a Life
Determine which approach to grantmaking works best for your foundation In philanthropy, there is much written about responsive and strategic approaches to philanthropy. Which approach is the most appropriate? Meaningful? Effective? Grantmakers have many roles to play in a community, and how they define those roles can vary greatly, so it’s important for foundations to understand both strategic and responsive options to determine which approach may be preferable. Responsive grantmaking is being open to receiving proposals and ideas from any nonprofit and allowing the nonprofits to drive the agenda. Requests are initiated by the nonprofit, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but it does mean that within … Continue reading Responsive vs. Strategic Grantmaking: Which One is Right for You?
Get rid of vague terms and confusing philanthropy jargon forever. In my line of work, I pick up a lot of interesting stories from the front lines of the foundation world. Some are inspiring, some heart-wrenching, and others downright funny. This one made me want to both laugh and cry simultaneously. A foundation leader told me that he and his staff were fed up with the amount of philanthro-speak that appeared in foundation documents — especially in the foundation’s grant guidelines. Vague terms like “innovative,” “equity,” “empowerment,” “disruption,” “intersectionality,” “sustainability,” “collective impact,” “best practices,” and “systemic,” were rife within the guidelines document. Grantees, confounded by the language, attempted to make up for their lack of clarity by peppering those same … Continue reading Are You Driving Your Staff (and Grantees) to Drink?
Do the math and plan ahead for success. Spring is definitely in the air! Last year I shared some very popular advice among funders at the start of the summer. The response was so great, I would love to share it again to prepare for the upcoming months. In between client engagements, I’m getting busy with finalizing summer plans – projects around the house, family vacations, camps for the kids – and I know that many of my clients and colleagues are busy doing the same. If this year is like many others before it, we’ll dive into hectic summer schedules and breathe a sigh of relief in September as we wave our children back to school. Then we’ll take … Continue reading How To Fend Off Post-Summer Panic Before It Even Starts
Here are five ways to elevate your outcomes and impact to extraordinary levels. I love to read about best practices — within and outside the field of philanthropy — and to gather examples from my work with foundations. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from thinking about ways that things done well can be replicated, scaled or embraced to positive effect. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize five best practices that “ordinary” grantmakers have adopted to elevate their outcomes and impact to extraordinary levels. Here’s what these extraordinary grantmakers can teach us: 1. Create a culture of innovation. Extraordinary funders cultivate conditions necessary to support innovation in organizations, and they follow a four-step process to help that innovation … Continue reading 5 Best Practices of Extraordinary Grantmakers
How to create stronger champions who will commit to change for the long term. You probably know the feeling. You’ve attended a dynamic conference, read a groundbreaking book, or had an inspiring conversation with a colleague. You know that if you could just get your boss or your board to act on this newfound knowledge, you could make some real changes that result in measurable improvement—either within your own processes or out in the communities you serve. But you also may know another feeling: You’ve talked about your new ideas to higher-ups and are met with either a shrug of the shoulders or a direct “no.” Talk about deflating! There are ways to help ensure that decision makers are … Continue reading Creating Champions for Change From Within
How donors with the best intentions get in everyone’s way. Everyone who gives away money or makes a social investment wants to feel like they are doing good. After all, that’s the basis of philanthropy. We want to help others, make lasting positive change and leave the world and its inhabitants better off because of our contributions. But too often, philanthropists delude themselves about their own effectiveness because they don’t see the myriad ways that they are adding needless complexity and complication to their work. They are blind to their own behaviors, policies and practices that can cause more harm than good. And they frequently get in their own way without realizing it. I call this delusional altruism. Here’s an example: … Continue reading The Delusional Philanthropist
Prepare for a year of greater philanthropic impact! As philanthropic organizations, we’re hopefully starting a new year with a renewed commitment to do good for others. It’s at the root of every philanthropic mission, after all. And, as philanthropies, we all try to make decisions that are in service to our missions, represent good stewardship, and result in the greatest impact. But sometimes, in making those very decisions, we unintentionally do more to damage our impact than to further it. I call this Delusional Altruism®, and I’ve seen it manifest itself in many ways. For example: When funders penny pinch on their own infrastructure or professional development in the name of getting more money out the door to grantees, … Continue reading Three Ways to Keep Delusional Altruism from Undermining Your Philanthropy in 2018
Giving happens in many different ways. When we see the images of horrific damage brought on by hurricanes in the Caribbean, Florida or Texas, or by the earthquakes in Mexico, we are moved to send money in response. Through a simple financial transaction, we’ve helped address an immediate need. The same is true when we support a local food pantry to provide a meal for a hungry family, when we donate to a homeless shelter to keep a single mother and her children off the street or when our gifts to a domestic violence service agency help a battered woman escape an abusive relationship. This type of transactional philanthropy is important and necessary to help those in immediate crises meet … Continue reading Transact Or Transform: What Kind Of Giver Are You?