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?
Six simple strategies donors use to create their best legacy. In our culture, we’ve been trained that those with money are those who deserve our respect. Of course, we all know that this is not true in practice. There are many wealthy people for whom many of us have little or no respect, because they demonstrate little or no respect for others. Unfortunately, the same is true for philanthropy. There are individual philanthropists and foundations among us that are disrespectful to their grantees and their peers, although usually they do not intend to be. Creating a legacy of respect starts with a donor, and it grows throughout his or her entire philanthropic operation. Here are six simple strategies to cultivate … Continue reading R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Respect in Philanthropy
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?
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
It feels great to play Santa. If you celebrate Christmas, there’s nothing like a Christmas holiday to make you remember that giving is fun. You find a present, wrap it up nicely, see the joy and excitement on someone else’s face, and feel good about what you’ve done. For many philanthropists, it’s the same: you write a nice check, present it to a nonprofit, see the joy and excitement on their faces, smile for the camera, and then feel good about what you’ve done. But then what? The problem with Santa-style giving is that it’s a once-a-year gig. But during the other 364 days of the year, the organizations you’ve made grants to still have ongoing needs, unexpected challenges, and … Continue reading A Little Less Santa, A Little More Staying Power
Most of us are in the final throes of the holiday season and making final preparations for the end of the year. Instead of holiday carols, it may be an appropriate time to sing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like…. year-end donation season?!” That’s right, did you know half of all non-profits receive a majority of their annual donations between the months of October and December? Though many of us begin this season with good intentions, it’s easy to get caught up in its hurried demands, causing our shining dreams of intentional giving to morph into a scrambled, last minute flurry of check-signing to causes we barely recognize. Not this year! Here are three of the most common mistakes … Continue reading 3 Mistakes Year-End Donors Make and How to Avoid Them
This is a guest post by Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink. Equity is a big, dynamic idea. The field — the universe of people working to create a just, fair society — is blossoming. Reading the provocatively titled blog post, “What the Heck Does Equity Mean?,” by Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Elizabeth Russell, I was struck by two thoughts. First, I am not surprised they found that a universal definition of equity is elusive. Second, I am not concerned. Rather, I am thrilled to see so many people and organizations embrace the hope of equity and grapple with the complexity of translating that hope into action. I am grateful to see people in philanthropy and beyond search for their … Continue reading Equity is…
This blog, written by myself and Elizabeth Russell, was originally posted on the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s blog, and is reposted here with permission. The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s (CEP) new report on transparency is a very valuable tool for introspection for individual foundations — and the wider field of philanthropy — to think about how we define and deliver on our pledges to become more transparent. As many other writers on CEP’s blog have pointed out, the report shows that while foundations seem to be doing a decent — and in some cases laudable — job of communicating openly about their grantmaking priorities and processes, there is much to be done in the realm of openly sharing lessons learned, … Continue reading Transactional vs. Transformative Transparency
The sale of a nonprofit hospital or health plan to a for-profit company can yield a great deal of change for a community, including the creation of a new, independent foundation created from the proceeds of the sale. In many cases, these new entities represent a significant new source of community wealth – and where assumptions may be that the actions of the new foundation may be closely tied to the clinical work of the hospital and the philanthropic efforts of the former hospital or health plan, the reality is often vastly different. Likewise, board members who previously served on the hospital foundation and are now on the board of the new, independent foundation may find themselves falling back on … Continue reading Similar and Different: 5 Key Shifts from Hospital Board to Private Foundation Board
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?