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
This is a guest post by Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink. Equity is a big, dynamic idea. The field — the universe of people working to create a just, fair society — is blossoming. Reading the provocatively titled blog post, “What the Heck Does Equity Mean?,” by Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Elizabeth Russell, I was struck by two thoughts. First, I am not surprised they found that a universal definition of equity is elusive. Second, I am not concerned. Rather, I am thrilled to see so many people and organizations embrace the hope of equity and grapple with the complexity of translating that hope into action. I am grateful to see people in philanthropy and beyond search for their … Continue reading Equity is…
This is a guest post by Allen Smart, vice president of programs, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. In a New York Times opinion piece earlier this year by Dr. Adam Grant, a Wharton management and psychology professor, Grant put forward the argument that real innovation comes not from endless practice and refinement but from creating a space for children, in this case, “to think for themselves” and to find “joy in work.” Further, Grant writes that adults’ creative contributions depend on “the breadth, not just the depth, of our knowledge and experience.” These concepts also ring true for philanthropy. We are in the midst of what feels like a downward spiral that started with measurement and return on investment; took … Continue reading Creativity is the Missing Ingredient
Last week, I wrote about the small – but troubling – culture of disrespect that I’ve observed bubbling up in the field of philanthropy. In that post, I shared examples of grantmakers who disrespected colleagues, grantees and partners by doing things like intentionally double-booking their calendars, purposefully making grant applications lengthy, or refusing to shoulder their share of the cash flow. I also said that the culture of disrespect is still the exception rather than the rule. This week, I’d like to share a shining example of what respectful philanthropy can look like. This example comes from one of my clients, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. It’s a statement of Grantee Experience Standards that the Foundation developed after asking … Continue reading What Respectful Philanthropy Looks Like
I hope you’ve had a great summer. Vacations, plenty of pool time, a little rest and relaxation — and lots of playing outside. Now it’s time to hunker down and get back in that office to get things done, right? Wrong. In my opinion, one of the last places a grantmaker should be is in the office. As foundation staff and trustees, we want to see solutions to community problems. There’s no way to create those solutions without getting out there and forging multiple connections. And there are few people better suited to building those connections than those of us who work in the philanthropic world. Building connections isn’t something you can do behind a desk. You need to get … Continue reading Get Back Out There!
There is a lot of talk in philanthropy about organizational culture in foundations. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a culture of disrespect when it comes to the way foundations deal with grantees, consultant partners, and even themselves. Luckily – in my experience – this is the exception not the norm. Still, it’s troubling. Here are three examples: A foundation colleague told me his foundation has a “culture of double booking meetings” including among their own staff. He said, for example, you might schedule an hour-long meeting with a colleague to discuss an important matter, and when the colleague shows up you learn you only have 10 minutes because she booked another meeting at the same time. … Continue reading A Culture of Disrespect in Philanthropy
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
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?
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!