1. Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake. All efforts at innovation should be in pursuit of a compelling reason. Further, that compelling reason should align with a foundation’s mission and vision. While funding a new app may sound fun, if the new app doesn’t directly impact an audience or issue you’ve targeted, leave it to someone else. 2. Innovation doesn’t have to be a big deal. Effective innovations can be small but brilliant internal changes. For example, redefining a grant process with the grantee in mind instead of staff. It can also be as simple as an effort to shift perspective and look at your work from the outside in. 3. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Funders who innovate almost … Continue reading Innovation and Philanthropy: It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated!
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
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!
This article was originally written for and published by Philanthropy New York. The original post can be read here. Funders, for the most part, want to do the right thing and operate with the best of intentions. But within those good intentions, funders too often suffer from what I call “delusional altruismSM.” Delusional altruism is when funders inadvertently get in their own way, or make life more challenging for their grantees and partners – and in doing so, prevent themselves from making the greatest impact. In the worst cases, they can do even more damage than good. Delusional altruism usually manifests itself in seemingly benign ways, such as making a grant application and approval process too cumbersome, taking three weeks to … Continue reading Three Ways Funders Delude Themselves About Equity
Let me start this post by saying that data is not a bad thing. It informs our decisions much more accurately than our guts, and it keeps us honest in terms of outcomes. Both of those functions keep philanthropy moving forward in effective ways. But too much data can also grind your effectiveness to a halt. Let me explain. I’ve facilitated several strategic planning sessions where my clients have begun with a request for data. Together, we’ve determined which data points will be necessary for informing their strategic decisions, and I’ve mobilized the Putnam team to help collect and analyze it. We present our findings and recommendations. There is enough there to inform the planning process and move forward. This … Continue reading Death By a Thousand Data Points
“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
Guest blog by Michael Green, CEO of Center for Environmental Health, www.ceh.org, and former Putnam Consulting Client. For more than two decades, our organization, the Center for Environmental Health, has worked to protect children and families from harmful chemicals in consumer products and in our air, water and food. Among our many efforts has been work on national campaigns to address the threats that genetically engineered or GMO crops pose to health, the environment and sustainable farming. In talking to philanthropists about this work, we have often been faced with long discussions to dispel the myths they have learned about GMOs from the mainstream media. For years, the companies that make GMOs have flooded the media with unverified claims, promising … Continue reading Philanthropy and Science in an “Alternative Truths” World
No matter what your political leanings, I think we can all agree that this year’s election cycle has been one of the most tense and unpleasant in recent history. It’s enough to turn voters off from voting at all, and we probably all have a colleague, friend or family member somewhere who has announced their intention to skip the polls this year. But even if the choices may be unappealing to some, the act of voting is still important. Voting is a right, but it’s also a responsibility. And for many segments of our nation’s population (women, people of color, immigrants), voting represents the culmination of a hard-fought battle. While funders can’t support or endorse specific candidates, they can ensure … Continue reading 5 Ways Philanthropy Can Support The Electoral Process
This post was originally published on Smart Business. It is reposted here with permission. Good businesses pride themselves on the good they do for others, both in terms of their products and services and in the way they give back to their communities. However, in my 16 years of experience advising corporate, institutional and individual philanthropists, I’ve found that many suffer from delusional altruism. Delusional altruism is when you are genuinely trying to help people — but paying absolutely no attention to the operational inefficiency and waste that drains those you’re trying to help or your own company or corporate foundation of the human and financial capital necessary to accomplish these goals. Let me give you two common examples of delusional altruism … Continue reading Five ways to avoid delusional altruism
Too Hard, Too Soft, or Just Right? Remember the story of Goldilocks and the three bears? At every turn, the blond-haired trespasser was confronted with choices, and in every case she picked the middle ground. Not that I condone breaking and entering, but there is something to be said for the idea of being neither too hard nor too soft on grantseekers. Either extreme – being too hard or being too “soft” - is a bad practice. Here’s why: Too Hard There is a longstanding philosophy among some funders that grants should be hard won by only those who can show themselves to be the most deserving. In some ways, they’re right. You don’t want to invest in an organization … Continue reading Let’s Bring Sanity Back to Grantmaking