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
How donors with the best intentions get in everyone’s way. Everyone who gives away money or makes a social investment wants to feel like they are doing good. After all, that’s the basis of philanthropy. We want to help others, make lasting positive change and leave the world and its inhabitants better off because of our contributions. But too often, philanthropists delude themselves about their own effectiveness because they don’t see the myriad ways that they are adding needless complexity and complication to their work. They are blind to their own behaviors, policies and practices that can cause more harm than good. And they frequently get in their own way without realizing it. I call this delusional altruism. Here’s an example: … Continue reading The Delusional Philanthropist
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
Philanthropy is supposed to feel great. But what if it doesn’t? As the holiday season approaches, many of us are reminded frequently that this is supposed to be a time of joy. Sometimes it’s easy to be thankful and happy about theblessings in our lives — especially if we work in philanthropy! But sometimes the joy gets squeezed right out of us with deadlines, overflowing inboxes, people we don’t like to spend time with (whether they are grantees, co-workers or foundation trustees), frantic year-end meetings that never result in action and much more. When we lose the joy that should come with giving, it shows. We have less energy and enthusiasm to share with our team. Our creativity suffers, as do our relationships with grantees and partners. I believe … Continue reading Where’s The Joy?
Sometimes it’s better to hop off the treadmill. My colleague and friend Ann Latham is a pro at creating effective meetings. One of her secrets is to ensure that everyone is always moving forward toward an identified goal. No wheel-spinning allowed! So when I read her recent post about “treadmill verbs” and how they bog down meetings, I immediately drew a parallel to philanthropy. Treadmill verbs describe those actions that can bog us down and keep us from moving forward – all in the name of doing good work. You’ll doubtless recognize words like learn, review, study, and plan. “Destination verbs,” on the other hand, are words that describe forward movement and accomplishment. Think of words like approve, decide, confirm. … Continue reading The Danger of Treadmill Verbs
You may be suffering from it without even realizing it. Imagine this: You’re out at a fancy dinner. You’re dressed to the nines and looking absolutely fabulous. You’re witty and clever in your conversation. Simply put, you’re at the top of your game and feeling great. Then, you excuse yourself to visit the facilities. You look in the mirror and there it is . . . that big piece of spinach on your tooth that makes you look like the loser in a boxing match. You realize as your face turns beet red that everyone else at the table must have seen it, but they were too uncomfortable to say anything to you. Your lack of awareness has undermined what … Continue reading What IS Delusional Altruism?
A colleague of mine recently forwarded a query from a funder that was looking to be more innovative in its grantmaking. This funder asked several questions of colleagues, such as: How many grantmaking staff do you have? How many grant cycles do you conduct each year? Do you offer grants for programs? Operations? Capacity building? As I considered this list, I confess I grew a bit frustrated. The person asking the questions was truly interested in being innovative, but the questions were all wrong. They were confined to the realm of what’s “normal” and what’s currently happening, rather than what was possible or wildly different. In addition, he’d only asked other funders, not anyone outside the field. Not surprisingly, the … Continue reading Shouting into the Mouth of a Cave
What will you fund, and what will you not fund? It seems like a simple question on the surface, but any funder knows how quickly one can be overwhelmed by the complexity. Depending on your mission and capacity, your focus could include broad program areas such as health or education. Or, it might be concentrated in specific areas like increasing access to high-quality early childhood education. In general, there are three potential levels of change that I encourage my clients to explore to determine where they can effect change, based on their capacity: People Organization Fields For the sake of example, let’s assume your interest is in substance abuse treatment. Your funding focus could take one or more of the … Continue reading 3 Potential Levels of Change to Determine Your Funding Focus
Grantmakers are always looking for impact. We define the quantitative outcomes we want to achieve with our funding. We collect qualitative evidence through stories of those whose lives are changed as a result of our work. But we often forget to look for and capture the “ripple effect” of the grants that we make. Here are two examples: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recently gave a grant to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County to update its business model. As part of that updating process, the Community Foundation is collecting and curating data about the business models of other community foundations across the country. They will share that information widely with their peers, who are hungry for it. Hence, … Continue reading Looking for Impact? Don’t Overlook the Ripple Effect