We all talk about big data, evaluation, dashboards and bench marks. But we tend to collect a lot of data and then end up unsure about what to do with it. Most of the time, it’s just 20% of the data that provide us with 80% of the information we need to make better decisions. Let me share a recent example of what I mean. I walked into the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto CA one morning for coffee. As I was drinking it, I heard the front desk clerk answer the phone, say “Yes, 72% and 395…you’re welcome,” and then hang up. I asked her what the numbers were for. She explained the hotel is at 72% capacity … Continue reading What Are Your Two Key Indicators?
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
Once upon a time, it was unheard of for a foundation to engage in any kind of discourse involving public policy. Now, it’s becoming more and more commonplace, as foundations realize that in order to truly create positive change and address the various root causes of the issues they fund, policy must come into the picture. Several of our clients have engaged in policy successfully in a variety of ways. Some work well in advance of legislative activity, bringing issues to light and convening experts to brainstorm potential policy solutions. Others work to support nonprofit organizations in their own advocacy efforts. Still others work after policies are enacted to help support their implementation. Sometimes, foundations feel the need to speak … Continue reading Speaking with One Voice: 5 Tips for Joint Public Statements
My colleague was lamenting the other day about how difficult it often is to get more than a one-word answer from her 9-year-old son when he comes home from school. “How was your day?” she’ll ask. “Fine,” is the reply. “What did you do today?” “Stuff.” “Didn’t you do anything interesting?” “No.” It’s not that her son is particularly non-communicative; later in the evening (like when it’s time to go to sleep) he’s full of stories about the day and questions. My colleague realized that when her boy arrives home from school, he simply needs a break from thinking about it, or else wants time to process everything before discussing it. We agreed that it’s not this is not just … Continue reading Want Feedback? Give It A Minute
The other day, my five-year-old twins were explaining a playground game to me. They were confident, they were patient with me, and they went into great detail, but there was no question that the rules of the game were far too complex for me – an outsider – to grasp. I felt that given enough time, I probably could have understood, but the moment passed and we all moved on to other things. I know they were probably disappointed in my slow uptake, but thankfully they’ve forgiven me. This put me in mind of a similar story that a philanthropist shared recently. His foundation has invested a great deal of money and time in a comprehensive new initiative, but when … Continue reading Head-Scratching, or Head-Nodding? 5 Tips for Communicating the Complex
For several years now, funders have found themselves amid a rising tide of metrics and data. We look to numbers to tell us if we’ve “moved the needle,” “closed the gap” or otherwise made progress. We disaggregate data to better understand the populations we want to serve, and to determine where funding opportunities might lie. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that data is valuable in terms of gauging impact and return on investment. It definitely has it place in a grantmaker’s toolbox. But there are many facts of the human condition that defy a numeric assessment. There are feelings and changes in perception that are all but impossible for data to quantify. These are emotions like hope, caring, courage … Continue reading Telling the Stories of Change
I love developing new grant initiatives for foundations and individual philanthropists. There is nothing more exciting that identifying a problem where you have the potential to make a difference and then putting a plan in place to do just that. However, once the fanfare has subsided, I’ve noticed that many funder initiatives lose steam. Frustration builds as the approach that seemed so promising barely seems to make a dent in the problem, and certainly isn’t delivering the results it should. Here are three reasons why funding initiatives can fail instead of flourish: You didn’t learn from others Your new effort to ensure all children are reading by 3rd grade, transform public education in your state, or provide rural communities with … Continue reading 3 Reasons Your New Funding Initiative Will Falter
Last year, the Putnam Consulting team had the privilege of working with Blue Shield of California Foundation (BSCF) on a case study documenting the Foundation’s work to build cadres of leadership in the state’s community health centers and domestic violence shelters. In a nutshell, BSCF created the Clinic Leadership Institute to provide an intensive 18-month leadership development experience for cadres of up-and-coming leaders as well as programs to enhance the leadership abilities of existing executive teams and new CEOs. It also incorporated a strong Leadership Development Program into a broader effort to strengthen the field of domestic violence service organizations. You can read more about program specifics here. What we found unique and particularly interesting about BSCF’s approach was the … Continue reading The “Perfect Storm” for Leadership Development