Engage more deeply in learning about the issues you address and the places you serve. Effective grantmaking rarely happens if grantmakers spend all their time behind their desks. Solving intractable problems requires that funders have a true understanding of the issue, a range of partners to join in the work and an ability to continually learn from collective actions and apply that learning to ongoing efforts. None of these three things is possible if funders don’t get out of their offices and into their communities, face-to-face, on a regular basis. Here are four reasons for grantmakers to leave the office and break out of the bubble: 1. You learn more than if you’d stayed in the office. Imagine a program officer … Continue reading Leave The Office And Break Out Of Your Bubble
Being more strategic doesn’t have to be complex. The term “strategic philanthropy” is everywhere these days. That’s not surprising, since most funders are looking for ways to increase their impact. Being more strategic can be a complex undertaking — and like every complex undertaking, shifting toward strategic grantmaking comes with multiple pitfalls and opportunities to make mistakes. That’s okay. Mistakes can provide valuable information for ongoing learning, which is a key part of strategic grantmaking. Acknowledging and acting on them only serves to make your efforts stronger. That said, there are some common pitfalls that any foundation can avoid with a little forethought: 1. Not asking “why”. There is a tendency when discussing new ideas for philanthropy to rush headlong into … Continue reading Five Mistakes to Avoid When Pursuing Strategic Grantmaking
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
Test your readiness with the following checklist. Incorporating a strategic approach to grantmaking isn’t something foundations can or should do overnight. Developing a strategy involves learning, planning, testing and cultivating support within the community. When, how, and how much to invest in a strategic approach are decisions that foundation leadership must weigh carefully. Moving into strategic philanthropy can be intimidating. There are many steps to take, questions to ask, and options to consider. But don’t let the challenge lead to paralysis. If you’re thinking of developing a strategic grantmaking approach, use the following checklist to test your readiness. Do any of these statements reflect your current situation? You are frustrated by a lack of understanding of your foundation’s impact. You … Continue reading Are You Ready to be Strategic?
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
How funders undermine their own success. Is your philanthropic practice suffering from delusional altruism? How will you know? Funders may think they’re doing things right when they are, in fact, employing policies or practices that unintentionally cause unpleasant consequences for themselves and those they serve—and sometimes even cause more harm than good. This is what I call delusional altruism. Although delusional altruism is rarely intentional, it is pervasive, and its manifestations among funders can be difficult to recognize. Here are five common examples: Adopting a poverty mentality instead of an abundance mentality. The juxtaposition of poverty and abundance has nothing to do with money and everything to do with mindset and attitude. A poverty mentality is really a misguided belief that … Continue reading 5 Manifestations Of Delusional Altruism
Maintain a habit of intentional learning. As a funder, it’s regrettably easy to stay in a “bubble” of isolation — either constrained mentally by one’s own assumptions and knowledge, or even physically by never leaving the office and venturing out into the community. If you’re in a bubble, you probably aren’t intentionally undermining your own effectiveness, but you are deluding yourself that you’re achieving the impact you’d like to see. For effective grantmaking to really happen, you need to break out of the bubble, and make an effort to deeply understand and connect with the communities you serve. The bubble-breaking process starts with a commitment to truly becoming a learning organization. Many funders claim they want to learn, but … Continue reading Break Out of Your Bubble with a Learning Agenda
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