Tag Archives: philanthropy consulting

The Art of Streamlining

Much has been written about efforts to “streamline” foundation application processes – reducing the number of hoops applicants must jump through, right-sizing applications to the grant amounts, and asking questions in such a way that the answers are truly useful for funder decision making. But extraordinary grantmakers move beyond streamlining applications and grant reports to reviewing every aspect of their internal operations to identify opportunities to streamline. They audit their operations to find unnecessary blockages, duplication, wasted efforts, and barriers to impact. Why? Consider what the following examples of inefficiency might do reduce productivity or effectiveness: A foundation assigns six different staff members to review and edit a simple four-page case study. A funder requires staff to issue RFPs every … Continue reading The Art of Streamlining

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Strategic, Responsive, or Both?

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about funders weighing the options between strategic grantmaking and responsive grantmaking. The general angst seems to come from a sense that all funding must be strategic in order to make a difference. While it’s true that strategic philanthropy (as described below) can lead to broader or deeper outcomes, there is a time and a place for both. Let’s take a look at each: Responsive grantmaking is being open to receiving proposals and ideas from any nonprofit, and allowing the nonprofits to drive the agenda. Requests are initiated by the nonprofit, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but that within those … Continue reading Strategic, Responsive, or Both?

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New Webinar Series on Philanthropy Consulting

Based on the groundbreaking Spring issue of The Foundation Review — the first edition dedicated to the practice of philanthropy consulting —the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (NNCG) is presenting a series of seven webinars that will dive deeper into many of the publication’s article topics. The webinar series is co-sponsored by the Council on Foundations, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, The Foundation Center, Learn Philanthropy, Northern California Grantmakers, and The Foundation Review. The first webinar, Common Cause: Aligning Foundations and Consultants for More Effective Philanthropy, is hosted by The Foundation Review and will be held Wednesday, May 13 at 1:00 pm (ET) featuring speakers Chris Cardona of the Ford Foundation and Barbara Kibbe of the S. … Continue reading New Webinar Series on Philanthropy Consulting

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Clarity Trumps Strategy

I’m a highly organized person, and can spend endless hours creating strategies, with corresponding tactics, timelines and to-do lists. But in my experience, one thing trumps strategy: clarity. You can have all the strategies, logic models, and theories of change in the world, but you won’t get far if you aren’t crystal clear inside your head about what you are trying to accomplish. Let me give you two quick examples from my life, neither of which have anything to do with philanthropy. Many years ago I was in an unhealthy relationship. For five years. Thousands of dollars of therapy later, it wasn’t until I had clarity that this person wasn’t going to change, I needed to get out, and I … Continue reading Clarity Trumps Strategy

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4 Stepparenting Lessons for Grantmakers

I’m a stepparent and a stepchild. Apparently I am not alone. A staggering 42% of U.S. adults have a steprelationship–either a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. This translates to 95.5 million adults and doesn’t include all the stepkids under 18. This number is probably actually larger, when you count all the boyfriends, girlfriends, and fiancés of people with kids, plus those kids themselves. Essentially, there’s a whole bunch of adults and children wondering, “Who is this person, why are they in my life, and what am I supposed to do with them?” Here are four stepparenting lessons I’ve learned that apply to philanthropy and consulting: 1. You have all the responsibility and zero authority. As a stepparent you might … Continue reading 4 Stepparenting Lessons for Grantmakers

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What I Learned About Customer Service from Marriott

Last week I stayed at the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Francisco, and I was blown away by the nonstop, excellent level of customer service I experienced. What I learned is applicable to foundations and consultants, and I want to share six lessons learned with you. 1. Treat everyone like they are important (even when you are busy). This convention hotel must have been booked solid, with a Salesforce convention happening one block down the street. Yet my colleague and I felt like we were the only guests at the hotel. Front desk staff were attentive, friendly, and willing to take extra time to accommodate my colleague, who was on crutches and needed certain room accommodations. All staff were prompt, cheerful, and … Continue reading What I Learned About Customer Service from Marriott

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Delusional Altruism

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

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