How donors with the best intentions get in everyone’s way. Everyone who gives away money or makes a social investment wants to feel like they are doing good. After all, that’s the basis of philanthropy. We want to help others, make lasting positive change and leave the world and its inhabitants better off because of our contributions. But too often, philanthropists delude themselves about their own effectiveness because they don’t see the myriad ways that they are adding needless complexity and complication to their work. They are blind to their own behaviors, policies and practices that can cause more harm than good. And they frequently get in their own way without realizing it. I call this delusional altruism. Here’s an example: … Continue reading The Delusional Philanthropist
Maintain a habit of intentional learning. As a funder, it’s regrettably easy to stay in a “bubble” of isolation — either constrained mentally by one’s own assumptions and knowledge, or even physically by never leaving the office and venturing out into the community. If you’re in a bubble, you probably aren’t intentionally undermining your own effectiveness, but you are deluding yourself that you’re achieving the impact you’d like to see. For effective grantmaking to really happen, you need to break out of the bubble, and make an effort to deeply understand and connect with the communities you serve. The bubble-breaking process starts with a commitment to truly becoming a learning organization. Many funders claim they want to learn, but … Continue reading Break Out of Your Bubble with a Learning Agenda
A philanthropy consultant should live and breathe the principles of giving back. Let’s make no mistake about it: philanthropy advisors and consultants are in business to make a living. They provide a service that delivers value to their clients in exchange for compensation. Good philanthropy consultants leave no doubt in the minds of their clients that their services are worth the investment. But I believe that philanthropy consultants also should live and breathe the principles of giving back with their own generosity and philanthropy. I’m not only talking about consultants who make their own charitable gifts. I’m talking about those who go the extra mile to contribute deeply to the causes in which they specialize or to the field … Continue reading How Generous are Your Consultants?
Prepare for a year of greater philanthropic impact! As philanthropic organizations, we’re hopefully starting a new year with a renewed commitment to do good for others. It’s at the root of every philanthropic mission, after all. And, as philanthropies, we all try to make decisions that are in service to our missions, represent good stewardship, and result in the greatest impact. But sometimes, in making those very decisions, we unintentionally do more to damage our impact than to further it. I call this Delusional Altruism®, and I’ve seen it manifest itself in many ways. For example: When funders penny pinch on their own infrastructure or professional development in the name of getting more money out the door to grantees, … Continue reading Three Ways to Keep Delusional Altruism from Undermining Your Philanthropy in 2018
Philanthropy is supposed to feel great. But what if it doesn’t? As the holiday season approaches, many of us are reminded frequently that this is supposed to be a time of joy. Sometimes it’s easy to be thankful and happy about theblessings in our lives — especially if we work in philanthropy! But sometimes the joy gets squeezed right out of us with deadlines, overflowing inboxes, people we don’t like to spend time with (whether they are grantees, co-workers or foundation trustees), frantic year-end meetings that never result in action and much more. When we lose the joy that should come with giving, it shows. We have less energy and enthusiasm to share with our team. Our creativity suffers, as do our relationships with grantees and partners. I believe … Continue reading Where’s The Joy?
Giving happens in many different ways. When we see the images of horrific damage brought on by hurricanes in the Caribbean, Florida or Texas, or by the earthquakes in Mexico, we are moved to send money in response. Through a simple financial transaction, we’ve helped address an immediate need. The same is true when we support a local food pantry to provide a meal for a hungry family, when we donate to a homeless shelter to keep a single mother and her children off the street or when our gifts to a domestic violence service agency help a battered woman escape an abusive relationship. This type of transactional philanthropy is important and necessary to help those in immediate crises meet … Continue reading Transact Or Transform: What Kind Of Giver Are You?
Sometimes it’s better to hop off the treadmill. My colleague and friend Ann Latham is a pro at creating effective meetings. One of her secrets is to ensure that everyone is always moving forward toward an identified goal. No wheel-spinning allowed! So when I read her recent post about “treadmill verbs” and how they bog down meetings, I immediately drew a parallel to philanthropy. Treadmill verbs describe those actions that can bog us down and keep us from moving forward – all in the name of doing good work. You’ll doubtless recognize words like learn, review, study, and plan. “Destination verbs,” on the other hand, are words that describe forward movement and accomplishment. Think of words like approve, decide, confirm. … Continue reading The Danger of Treadmill Verbs
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
A colleague of mine recently forwarded a query from a funder that was looking to be more innovative in its grantmaking. This funder asked several questions of colleagues, such as: How many grantmaking staff do you have? How many grant cycles do you conduct each year? Do you offer grants for programs? Operations? Capacity building? As I considered this list, I confess I grew a bit frustrated. The person asking the questions was truly interested in being innovative, but the questions were all wrong. They were confined to the realm of what’s “normal” and what’s currently happening, rather than what was possible or wildly different. In addition, he’d only asked other funders, not anyone outside the field. Not surprisingly, the … Continue reading Shouting into the Mouth of a Cave