Tackle these 6 common challenges to pick up speed. In grantmaking, it is always important to eliminate unnecessary steps and streamline our grant processes. Streamlining strengthens our foundations, creates more effective strategies and supports efficiencies for our grantees. But just as important as streamlining your foundation is understanding why our processes can become bogged down in the first place. Philanthropy isn’t the only field that can be slow when it comes to strategy. Any corporation or department of government faces the same struggles in trying to remain responsive to current conditions. The best way to pick up speed when it comes to strategy is to face these six common challenges head on: 1. Fear Fear is the No. 1 reason work slows … Continue reading Why Foundation Strategy Moves Slowly
Why philanthropic giving is a smart investment tool for business. Socially conscious investors are after more than just financial returns. In addition to making money in the markets, we also want to make a difference. We want to leave a legacy of not just wealth but positive change. However, in our quest to be socially conscious change creators, we often overlook the power of one key asset: our philanthropy. For most people, philanthropy is the money we give away when we’re finished investing and earning in other areas. It’s a separate category — not just on our tax returns or financial planning documents, but also in our heads. The idea that one makes money first, then gives it away is … Continue reading Philanthropy — The Forgotten Investment Asset
I just got back from my family’s annual month-long vacation to Chautauqua Institution, New York. In between long walks with my husband, taking our kids boating on Lake Chautauqua, and countless dinner parties with friends, I was retained by three new clients, booked a speaking engagement, became a “practical advice” content partner to Alliance Magazine (the leading magazine for the global philanthropic sector), and was asked to be the new “international expert on strategic philanthropy” for an online European philanthropy news outlet (more on that in the coming months). Sounds like a pretty productive vacation, right?! I’m often asked by my advising and coaching clients how they can create a better “work-life balance.” And I share the advice I’ve learned … Continue reading Get a Life
Determine which approach to grantmaking works best for your foundation In philanthropy, there is much written about responsive and strategic approaches to philanthropy. Which approach is the most appropriate? Meaningful? Effective? Grantmakers have many roles to play in a community, and how they define those roles can vary greatly, so it’s important for foundations to understand both strategic and responsive options to determine which approach may be preferable. 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 it does mean that within … Continue reading Responsive vs. Strategic Grantmaking: Which One is Right for You?
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?
Being more strategic doesn’t have to be complex. The term “strategic philanthropy” is everywhere these days. That’s not surprising, since most funders are looking for ways to increase their impact. Being more strategic can be a complex undertaking — and like every complex undertaking, shifting toward strategic grantmaking comes with multiple pitfalls and opportunities to make mistakes. That’s okay. Mistakes can provide valuable information for ongoing learning, which is a key part of strategic grantmaking. Acknowledging and acting on them only serves to make your efforts stronger. That said, there are some common pitfalls that any foundation can avoid with a little forethought: 1. Not asking “why”. There is a tendency when discussing new ideas for philanthropy to rush headlong into … Continue reading Five Mistakes to Avoid When Pursuing Strategic Grantmaking
Here are five ways to elevate your outcomes and impact to extraordinary levels. I love to read about best practices — within and outside the field of philanthropy — and to gather examples from my work with foundations. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from thinking about ways that things done well can be replicated, scaled or embraced to positive effect. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize five best practices that “ordinary” grantmakers have adopted to elevate their outcomes and impact to extraordinary levels. Here’s what these extraordinary grantmakers can teach us: 1. Create a culture of innovation. Extraordinary funders cultivate conditions necessary to support innovation in organizations, and they follow a four-step process to help that innovation … Continue reading 5 Best Practices of Extraordinary Grantmakers
Test your readiness with the following checklist. Incorporating a strategic approach to grantmaking isn’t something foundations can or should do overnight. Developing a strategy involves learning, planning, testing and cultivating support within the community. When, how, and how much to invest in a strategic approach are decisions that foundation leadership must weigh carefully. Moving into strategic philanthropy can be intimidating. There are many steps to take, questions to ask, and options to consider. But don’t let the challenge lead to paralysis. If you’re thinking of developing a strategic grantmaking approach, use the following checklist to test your readiness. Do any of these statements reflect your current situation? You are frustrated by a lack of understanding of your foundation’s impact. You … Continue reading Are You Ready to be Strategic?
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
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?