A colleague recently booked air travel through a large foundation’s designated travel service to attend a conference the foundation was hosting. The travel agent made it clear that her charge was to find the cheapest airfare possible and initially had my colleague waking up at 3:00 am to drive two hours in the dark to an airport further from his home, and on the return trip driving home after midnight! Luckily he was able to negotiate a more reasonable (and safe) schedule. However, in order to meet the foundation’s requirements for booking the lowest cost airfare, he had to book his trip a full day before the conference started and a full day after it ended — requiring two additional … Continue reading I Can’t Make This Up
Too often foundations request “innovative ideas” from their grantees but fail to accomplish the same thing internally — or even define what “innovation” means to them. The implied assumption is that innovation “just happens.” Further, lack of clear definition has come to imply that innovation must be a dramatic, game-changing, disruptive new idea or practice: the iPhone of early childhood education, the Post-It note of economic development. As a result, the expectations for innovation are both so high and so fuzzy that most people naturally feel intimidated, not realizing that they too can create innovations and that innovation is not the exclusive domain of those who are smarter or more creative. After reading a book called The Innovation Formula by business gurus Michel … Continue reading 4 Steps for Fostering Innovation
In my experience, one thing holds philanthropists back from achieving dramatic impact on the issues and causes they care most about: They have a poverty mentality. It might seem like an oxymoron for people with wealth, or professional access to wealth, to experience a form of poverty, but hear me out. A poverty mentality in philanthropy is a belief that maintaining a Spartan operation equates to efficiency and effectiveness, and that you and/or your staff don’t deserve to invest in your own success. For example: Your executive director spends a significant portion of her time handling basic administrative activities, such as meeting logistics, travel reimbursement, taking minutes, and copyediting board dockets, leaving her less time to focus on strategy, planning, … Continue reading Embrace Abundance!
This week, instead of sharing one point of wisdom, I’d like to share many – 46 of them, in fact. That’s how many entries you’ll find in my newly published book, Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders. Why write a book? While a blog is great for sharing advice and helpful content in small, quick bursts of content, it also helps to have wisdom collected all in one place. This is true for just about any topic. As a parent, I value little pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up here and there from friends and relatives, but there’s a reason why Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care is one of the top-selling books of all time. As a consultant, I use … Continue reading Collected Wisdom for Grantmakers
This post was originally published on Smart Business. It is reposted here with permission. Good businesses pride themselves on the good they do for others, both in terms of their products and services and in the way they give back to their communities. However, in my 16 years of experience advising corporate, institutional and individual philanthropists, I’ve found that many 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 those you’re trying to help or your own company or corporate foundation of the human and financial capital necessary to accomplish these goals. Let me give you two common examples of delusional altruism … Continue reading Five ways to avoid delusional altruism
Foundations often expect nonprofits to collaborate, yet they less frequently turn that expectation on themselves. There is tremendous opportunity to exponentially expand the impact of your grantmaking through funder collaboration. If you’re just getting started in exploring collaboration, or want a refresher, here’s a quick look at the basics: What are the types of funder collaboration? Funder collaboration comes in all shapes and sizes, but in general there are three primary types: Shared learning. Funders come together to learn about latest topics and share experiences in a particular area of interest. Strategic alignment. Funders learn about and support various aspects of a shared agenda, such as a systemic change in a field or laying the groundwork for policy change, but … Continue reading Collaboration 101
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, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, 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 needs to happen … Continue reading Learning How to Learn