“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
By all accounts, this year will be one of uncertainty the likes of which we’ve not seen in a while. Everyone is poised to see what a new presidency will bring. Our nation is on edge and some are even on high alert. If anything is certain, it is that change of some sort will come. As funders, we can’t ignore that fact that there are many “others” out there who don’t necessarily understand or agree with our work. The change that will come will no doubt have an impact on what we do. These “others” will have a significant bearing on our effectiveness. It’s understandable that many of us have been focused on serving specific populations, whether defined by … Continue reading This Year, Make a Point to Think About “The Others”
It feels great to play Santa. If you celebrate Christmas, there’s nothing like a Christmas holiday to make you remember that giving is fun. You find a present, wrap it up nicely, see the joy and excitement on someone else’s face, and feel good about what you’ve done. For many philanthropists, it’s the same: you write a nice check, present it to a nonprofit, see the joy and excitement on their faces, smile for the camera, and then feel good about what you’ve done. But then what? The problem with Santa-style giving is that it’s a once-a-year gig. But during the other 364 days of the year, the organizations you’ve made grants to still have ongoing needs, unexpected challenges, and … Continue reading A Little Less Santa, A Little More Staying Power
Most of us are in the final throes of the holiday season and making final preparations for the end of the year. Instead of holiday carols, it may be an appropriate time to sing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like…. year-end donation season?!” That’s right, did you know half of all non-profits receive a majority of their annual donations between the months of October and December? Though many of us begin this season with good intentions, it’s easy to get caught up in its hurried demands, causing our shining dreams of intentional giving to morph into a scrambled, last minute flurry of check-signing to causes we barely recognize. Not this year! Here are three of the most common mistakes … Continue reading 3 Mistakes Year-End Donors Make and How to Avoid Them
When you think about your work in philanthropy, are you selling yourself short? If so, you could be shortchanging your foundation’s effectiveness – and therefore its mission – as well. Some of the most sincere people I know in philanthropy bring a very astute sense of servant leadership to their work. They always put the needs of others first and keep themselves humbly out of the spotlight. It’s an admirable mindset, but it also can be a symptom of approaching philanthropy from a poverty mentality rather than one of abundance. As I’ve written before, foundations with a poverty mentality believe that investing in their own infrastructure or capacity somehow robs those they serve. Foundations with an abundance mentality realize that … Continue reading Are You Selling Yourself Short?
No matter what your political leanings, I think we can all agree that this year’s election cycle has been one of the most tense and unpleasant in recent history. It’s enough to turn voters off from voting at all, and we probably all have a colleague, friend or family member somewhere who has announced their intention to skip the polls this year. But even if the choices may be unappealing to some, the act of voting is still important. Voting is a right, but it’s also a responsibility. And for many segments of our nation’s population (women, people of color, immigrants), voting represents the culmination of a hard-fought battle. While funders can’t support or endorse specific candidates, they can ensure … Continue reading 5 Ways Philanthropy Can Support The Electoral Process
Many quip that once you work for or serve on a foundation board, you never have to pay for lunch and everyone laughs at your jokes. While this observation is amusing, it is true that a very real power dynamic that exists between a foundation and the nonprofit community it serves. Nowhere is this power dynamic more apparent — and more dangerous — than between a board member and his or her community. Being in a position of power means that people are inclined to be more deferential to your opinion, even if they disagree. As a board, you must be your own critical thought partner and examine ideas — especially your own — from every angle. You must also … Continue reading Don’t Let It Go To Your Head – A Caution for Board Members
Say you’re part of a new foundation, or one that is re-inventing itself, or even one that’s been around for a bit but has gotten a bit lethargic. You’re ready to step up, infuse energy into your work and rally community support. That’s fantastic! But you may also be somewhat fearful or hesitant. What if the community doesn’t like what you’re doing? What if your big idea or new direction doesn’t work? What if the community likes it too much and you’re overrun with demands and requests? These kinds of fears are normal. One important key to managing your foundation’s transition in a community is to manage – and then exceed – community expectations. Here are 8 tips to help … Continue reading Managing and Exceeding Community Expectations
I’ve been thinking small lately. To be specific, I’ve been thinking about small foundations and the immense power they hold. I’ve just finished presenting at Exponent Philanthropy’s conference and met a number of highly engaged and courageous small-foundation grantmakers who are eager to tap into their own power for change. I led a workshop for about 100 of these grantmakers and explored various ways in which they can make a huge difference with relatively small investments. We talked about tactics like funding research, using their convening power, seeding innovation and funding advocacy. These aren’t new strategies. In truth, these and many other approaches are available to small and large grantmakers alike. But there’s one area where small foundations lead the … Continue reading The Power of Small
This post was originally published on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and is co-authored by Elizabeth Russell. A clear definition of equity would seem paramount to galvanizing philanthropy into action around this increasingly used term-but the field is only beginning to explore what it really means. The term “equity” is spreading like wildfire in some philanthropic circles. It is showing up more and more in organizations’ mission and values statements. It is making its way into the titles of conferences, plenary and breakout sessions, and meetings at the national, state, and local levels. At a recent gathering of organizations working on issues surrounding boys and men of color, someone lamented that the word “equity” was being co-opted by organizations … Continue reading What the Heck Does “Equity” Mean?