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?
“We can’t just put a Band-Aid on this. We need to change the system!” How many times have you heard that statement? It’s true. Most of the issues funders address will ultimately benefit greatly by systems change. But how do funders play a role in that change? I define systems change as altering entrenched policies and practices in society. Generally, there are three approaches that funders use to engage in systems change work. I think of them as using lenses, frameworks and movements. 1. Using a systems change lens to drive philanthropic mission at individual foundations As donors and foundations learn and grow, and come to understand why systems change work is important – even critical – for achieving their … Continue reading Three Ways Funders Can Change Systems And Drive Impact
Are you missing a key chance to change policy? Most foundations know that they can’t lobby directly for a piece of legislation that is being considered by a lawmaking body. But before the legislative process around a new piece of public policy ever begins, foundations can be key players in shaping the landscape for that policy and building knowledge and momentum. On the other side of the legislative process, after a policy passes through legislation and becomes law, some of the harder and longer-term advocacy work begins as new policies are implemented. Here are six ways funders can support policy advocacy before and after the legislative process: 1) Establish a Vision. Foundations can use their convening power to bring together the … Continue reading 6 Ways to Advocate for Policy Change
What will you fund, and what will you not fund? It seems like a simple question on the surface, but any funder knows how quickly one can be overwhelmed by the complexity. Depending on your mission and capacity, your focus could include broad program areas such as health or education. Or, it might be concentrated in specific areas like increasing access to high-quality early childhood education. In general, there are three potential levels of change that I encourage my clients to explore to determine where they can effect change, based on their capacity: People Organization Fields For the sake of example, let’s assume your interest is in substance abuse treatment. Your funding focus could take one or more of the … Continue reading 3 Potential Levels of Change to Determine Your Funding Focus
3 things you can do to calm yourself down and meet your goals There are about 75 working days left until the end of the year, depending on how many holidays you celebrate. Even fewer if, like me, you take the last half of December off. The great news is that there is still plenty of time to meet your year-end goals! If you find yourself hyperventilating — or if you are understandably distracted by the many natural disasters and local and global crises we are experiencing across the globe — take some deep breaths and repeat after me: “I can do this.” Here’s what to do: 1. Identify the ONE thing you must accomplish before the end of the … Continue reading Are You In End-of-Year Panic?
Hint: The answer is yes. By now you probably know two things about me: I travel frequently, and I’m addicted to good coffee – especially first thing in the morning. So you can understand my delight to find a high-quality coffee service right on my hotel floor this morning! This was no in-room filter pack situation. To me, that’s like offering stale saltines to an artisan baker. I pass that up unless I’m completely desperate. But I also am reluctant to make myself presentable first thing upon waking just to go down multiple floors to a hotel lobby or a Starbuck’s to get the good stuff. On most trips, I actually bring a single-cup coffee maker with me on my … Continue reading Can You Improve Just a Smidgen?