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?
As I’ve often said, there are some stories of waste and counterproductivity in the foundation world that I simply couldn’t make up if I tried. This is one of those stories. Read it and see how many incidents of pointless bureaucracy and time-sucking processes you can find, then see if my list (below) matches yours. I recently was asked by a senior manager at a large foundation to submit a proposal. Time was of the essence, since the foundation’s annual budget year was about to end and this project needed to come in as part of the current budget. The senior manager’s assistant sent me a link to the foundation’s online portal to submit my proposal, which I did promptly. … Continue reading Bureaucratic Time-Suckers in Philanthropy
In my last post, I explained the ways that many individuals in foundations adopt a poverty mentality rather than an abundance mentality when it comes to their own personal activities. Many foundation staff and leaders sell themselves short and eschew the support they need for the sake of not taking precious resources away from others. But in doing so, they often undermine their effectiveness and that of their foundation. Support for your work is important. It allows you to maximize efficiency, gain valuable knowledge, create and leverage partners, explore creative solutions, and thereby promote and further the foundation’s mission. That support could take a number of forms, such as: An administrative support staff person A software upgrade Travel to a … Continue reading Making the Case For (Your Own) Support
Contrary to what one might assume from the phrase, having an “abundance mentality” has nothing to do with money. Instead, it has everything to do with your foundation’s beliefs, organizational culture, and how it approaches its work. At its core, an abundance mentality is based in a belief that almost anything is possible. David conquered Goliath, and you can help conquer just about anything if you’re willing to step forward and make an effort and an investment. No doubt you’ve seen both individuals and organizations that embrace an abundance mentality, and those who are trapped in a mentality of poverty. The abundance mentality includes the belief that the answers are out there, if we only are willing to invest in … Continue reading Embracing a Mindset of Abundance
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
Site visits are a very valuable tool for funders, because they give you first-hand insight into the places and personalities that will put your charitable investments to work. In-person visits are always best, because they allow you to tour facilities, see programs in action, and observe grantees at work. However, sometimes a grantee can be hundreds – or even thousands – of miles from your foundation office, and getting to their location might be more than your schedule or budget may allow. In that case, consider conducting a virtual site visit. A virtual site visit uses web-based audio and visual connections to facilitate a face-to-face interaction with grantees or grantseekers. They are particularly helpful if your grant awards team (or … Continue reading Short on Time and Money? Consider a Virtual Site Visit
My previous blog post shared 5 mistakes to avoid if you are a new foundation CEO and new to philanthropy. One mistake is not being willing to learn about your new role and field. Below I share eight resources that can help you in your role. In addition, nothing beats getting advice from seasoned foundation leaders, or if needed retaining a coach or advisor to help you. 1 – LearnPhilanthropy provides a wealth of free resources to accelerate learning among newcomers to philanthropy 2 – The Council on Foundations offers resources for CEO leadership development and foundation management 3 – If you are running a family foundation, the National Center on Family Philanthropy offers the CEO Initiative 4 – CEOs of small foundations … Continue reading 8 Resources for New Foundation CEOs
I’ve worked with many new foundation CEOs, some of whom are not only new to their role, but new to philanthropy. If you find yourself in this position, here are 5 mistakes you should avoid: 1 – Assuming you don’t need to learn about philanthropy because you were hired for being “an outsider.” There is a trend in philanthropy to poo-poo philanthropy. A belief that philanthropy is too insular, which isn’t entirely untrue. However, every field needs to bring in fresh thinking and new ideas, and one way to accomplish that is to hire from outside. But that doesn’t mean that the field is damaged. Giving money away is not easy. Recognize that you are standing on the shoulders of seasoned … Continue reading Are You A New Foundation CEO? Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes!
Foundations pride themselves on the good they do for others; that’s the very nature and culture of philanthropy. However, in my 15 years of experience advising foundations, I’ve found that most foundations suffer from delusional altruism. Delusional altruism is when you are genuinely trying to help people – but paying absolutely no attention to the operational inefficiency and waste that drains grantseekers or your own foundation of the human and financial capital necessary to accomplish these goals. Let me give you three examples: A foundation gives itself five weeks to approve a Request for Proposals (RFP) that it has already written, but gives grantseekers only three weeks to apply. Five different departments within a large national foundation each had a … Continue reading Delusional Altruism