“Philanthropy” is generally translated from its Latin roots as “the love of humankind.” That means we automatically assume that all philanthropists are motivated, at least to some degree, by a desire to make life better for others. We see this assumption at work across the philanthropic landscape, from generous individuals to ginormous foundations, all working to support nonprofit organizations that, in turn, help millions of people and address almost every kind of need imaginable. But too often, a philanthropist’s or foundation’s work and effectiveness, while generous in spirit, is confounded by the requirements and processes that the funder adopts — requirements and processes that make their nonprofit partners tear out their hair. It’s not the philanthropist’s intention to make life … Continue reading How Grantmakers Unwittingly Make Life Harder For Nonprofits
Hint: The answer is yes. By now you probably know two things about me: I travel frequently, and I’m addicted to good coffee – especially first thing in the morning. So you can understand my delight to find a high-quality coffee service right on my hotel floor this morning! This was no in-room filter pack situation. To me, that’s like offering stale saltines to an artisan baker. I pass that up unless I’m completely desperate. But I also am reluctant to make myself presentable first thing upon waking just to go down multiple floors to a hotel lobby or a Starbuck’s to get the good stuff. On most trips, I actually bring a single-cup coffee maker with me on my … Continue reading Can You Improve Just a Smidgen?
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!
Spring is definitely in the air! 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 a good hard look at the work we’ve yet to accomplish and feel a surging sense of post-summer panic. We all do it. That’s why I usually get a rash of calls in September about projects that must either expend budgets or … Continue reading 6 Steps To Stave Off The Post-Summer Panic Before It Starts
We often look to external sources for best practices, hoping that others have figured out the ideal way to accomplish something and we can simply duplicate it. But when is the last time you searched inside your organization for internal best practices? If the answer is rarely or never, read on! With a little time and intention, you can make dramatic improvements in your operations and grantmaking. Let me give you an easy example. Swimming is a regular part of my week day exercise routine. My pool is lucky to have a wonderful lifeguard named John. Whenever the lanes are full, John helps new swimmers identify a lane and asks the lane’s occupant it he or she would mind sharing. John’s friendly manner always solicits … Continue reading The Best Practices You Never Knew You Had
In the face of a rapidly changing policy environment that appears to sometimes question the values most philanthropists espouse (you know, things like justice, compassion, and honesty), it’s understandable if funders feel panicked, deflated, enraged, or all three simultaneously. Those are the emotions that many of my clients, from a full spectrum of political leanings, are sharing as they call me for advice on how to respond to the dramatic changes that are taking place our country. Regardless of one’s political beliefs, when everything seems to be in a state of upheaval (whether it’s federal policy or your own institutional politics) it pays to stop, take a deep breath, and stay focused on your mission. Here are 10 points to … Continue reading Keep Calm and Carry On (With Your Mission)
A week ago, our country was in a totally different place than it is now. Regardless of your politics, there’s no question that we are most certainly entering some very uncertain times. Like everyone else, grantmakers of all stripes are looking around, trying to figure out how we got here and what the new lay of the land will be. Here are seven things that immediately come to mind as we consider the next four years: 1- Don’t beat yourself up. The election outcome made it clear that many of us in philanthropy have overlooked the sentiments of a silent but seething portion of the country. But while it’s great to be reflective and introspective and think about what your … Continue reading The Next Four Years: Keep Moving Forward
I was sitting in a workshop last week with some of the world’s leading business consultants. We were advised that in this time of rapidly changing technology and “disruption” what organizational leaders value most is speed. The more we can help our clients rapidly improve, develop and implement strategies, and generate new innovations, the better. “Except for philanthropy,” I thought. In my experience many grantmakers move at a snail’s pace. Let me give you some examples: Finding it perfectly acceptable to take nine months to make a grant. (Why not nine weeks, or even nine days? If you really need nine months to make a decision, something is very wrong with your process.) “Collaborations” of funders that meet monthly for years without … Continue reading Foundations Move at the Speed of…Snails
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 is a guest post by Allen Smart, vice president of programs, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. In a New York Times opinion piece earlier this year by Dr. Adam Grant, a Wharton management and psychology professor, Grant put forward the argument that real innovation comes not from endless practice and refinement but from creating a space for children, in this case, “to think for themselves” and to find “joy in work.” Further, Grant writes that adults’ creative contributions depend on “the breadth, not just the depth, of our knowledge and experience.” These concepts also ring true for philanthropy. We are in the midst of what feels like a downward spiral that started with measurement and return on investment; took … Continue reading Creativity is the Missing Ingredient