6 Questions to Regularly Ask Yourself and Your Partners Most philanthropies seek to be strategic and have an impact. Yet few build their own internal capacity to be strategic grantmakers. In particular, most funders forget to intentionally learn from their initial piloting and testing of strategies so that they can make early modifications and course corrections. Learning isn’t hard to do, but it must be intentional, documented, discussed within your team, and it must lead to decision making. It can’t simply exist inside a program officer’s head. One of our clients asks themselves, “What will make or break this grant?” when deciding whether to recommend a significant grant to their board. They are clear on the risks involved and what … Continue reading Are You Really Learning and Improving?
A simple lesson can start a child on a lifetime of philanthropy. Philanthropy is an instinctive impulse. Watch a roomful of toddlers, and you’ll see how even very young children naturally are concerned about other children who are upset. Part of this is human nature, and part of it is nurture. The early lessons we teach our children about caring for others, including through our gifts of time and money, are lessons they carry with them always. One of the simplest ways I know to invest in your child’s philanthropic spirit is by using three empty jars. Starting as early as preschool for some children, but definitely by elementary school, begin the practice of preserving a little money to share … Continue reading Teach Giving With Three Empty Jars
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
A culture of learning is one that encourages ongoing inquiry and questioning. It is comfortable with the fact that there is always more to learn and explore, and therefore the “work” of learning is never-ending. Learning is at the core of all research and development. The more you approach work with a sense of curiosity and inquiry, the more you can research and develop new approaches. This can be a challenge for foundation staff or boards who are geared toward finding the “one” solution to a challenge, checking it off the list, and moving on. But the culture of learning and ongoing inquiry is why cell phones now fit in the palm of your hand, and why more cancers are … Continue reading Create a Culture of Learning