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 For the field of philanthropy, where many giving practices are deeply entrenched and sometimes outdated, “new and different” can be a very good thing.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?
This blog was originally published on June 4, 2015 by Andy Carroll on PhilanthroFiles, the blog of Exponent Philanthropy. It is reposted here with permission. It’s common for Exponent Philanthropy members who’ve made significant impact to reflect back and say, “Money wasn’t the most important thing. It was really about being a catalyst, making things happen.” Philanthropy is more than transferring money. It’s about using passion, knowledge, connections, advocacy, and dollars to make change on important issues. Central to success is listening, learning, leveraging, and leading. Yet when we teach and write about grantmaking, we fixate on how best to carry out a bureaucratic, paper-based, transactional process for getting money out the door. Guidelines, applications, due diligence, dockets, decision processes, … Continue reading 11 Paths to Effective Giving
I recently had the pleasure of helping to tell the story of an incredible grantmaking initiative at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust called “Healthy Places NC.” This is an effort to improve health and wellness in several of North Carolina’s poorest counties, but the activities that are part of this effort are all community designed and community driven. Rather than designing the rules of engagement for this initiative, the Trust sees itself as a learning partner and team member. It has even redefined the roles of its program officers to accommodate the nature of this initiative, getting them out from behind desks and transforming them into community connectors and resource agents whose main job is to support local residents … Continue reading How Flexible Are You, Really?
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