Call ‘em what you want – in my 18 years advising foundations and philanthropists I’ve seen the terms “regional association of grantmakers,” “funder networks,” “affinity groups,” “philanthropy communities,” and more – and now the new term is “philanthropy-serving organization” (PSO). Whatever you call it, the value is timeless – bringing funders of similar interests, types, sizes, and/or geographic locations together to network and learn from each other. In my work advising foundation CEOs, I’ve noticed that as leaders transition to new roles and move to new organizations, and as foundation priorities and grantmaking strategies evolve, many funders fail to take advantage of – and sometimes fail to even notice – PSOs that might meet their evolving needs. For example: Consider … Continue reading There’s a Philanthropy-Serving Organization for That!
The Putnam team recently authored two case studies for Casey Family Programs about their Communities of Hope initiative. In Hagerstown, Maryland and Gainesville, Florida, we explored collaborations among local agencies to improve conditions and opportunities for families and children. These projects were wide-reaching and complex – just like the myriad of issues they seek to address. But in both, we saw three common threads that we believe are making these successful efforts for the community and successful investments for Casey Family Programs. These aren’t aspects of success that you can measure with metrics or data, and they are things that many funders often either take for granted or completely overlook. Yet, when they are present, we believe they make a night-and-day difference in effectiveness: 1. Personal … Continue reading Three Things That Local Organizations Know But Foundations Often Miss
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
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
School’s out and summer is here! Time to pursue that great American pastime – the lazy summer vacation. Be it at the beach, in the mountains, or somewhere in between, there’s actually a great value in taking time off and letting your mind daydream for a bit. In fact, summer dreaming time is the perfect way to spark what could be a dramatic change in your philanthropy. All you need, really, is your own permission to do so. While you’re miles away from the phone, co-workers, and day-to-day expectations, give yourself time and space to dream a little. Take a few deep breaths. Allow yourself to understand that any and all thoughts are welcome – even those that may feel unorthodox. … Continue reading Summer Daydreaming is the Perfect Time to Re-Imagine Philanthropy
We all know the feeling. When that sense of excitement and possibility on the drive to work is replaced by stress, dread or boredom. What’s a grantmaker to do? It’s natural to face burnout and frustration from time to time. Processes and routines get old. Results are less than hoped for. Grantees approach you with an air of resigned diligence – or worse, apathy. You watch them jump through hoops your foundation has created and wonder what compels them to soldier on. When that happens, it’s easy to lose the big picture and remember why what you do matters – and what drew you to philanthropy in the first place. Fortunately, there are ways to put the joy back into … Continue reading Isn’t This Supposed to be Fun? 5 Ways to Put the Joy Back in Philanthropy
The philanthropic sector has seen steady growth over the past decade, and while some new foundation boards may be made up of veteran philanthropists, I’ll wager that many of those entrusted are taking on the job for the first time. It’s a big responsibility, and many of the early choices made by a new board can determine whether the new foundation will move forward smoothly and effectively or become mired in a culture or in policies that stifle effectiveness. I was recently invited to speak with a new health legacy foundation board and shared with them 10 mistakes that new foundation boards often make, and how to avoid them. Here are the first five (I’ll cover the other five next … Continue reading 10 Mistakes New Foundation Boards Make, and How to Avoid Them (Part 1)
Have you ever looked around on Christmas morning after the gift-opening frenzy is over and realized that perhaps you went a little overboard? It’s a feeling I get every year about this time, and one you think I’d have learned to anticipate by now. What begins as a surety that I’ve not bought enough presents for my five kids ends up with the realization that instead, I bought way too many and there’s now chaos on my living room floor. Too much of a good thing may be a nice problem to have, but it can still be a problem – especially if you’re the one left to manage the excess once it’s strewn about or realize that perhaps funds … Continue reading Too Much of a Good Thing
This is a guest post by Susan Crites Price, and it was originally posted on The National Center for Family Philanthropy’s blog Family Giving News on November 15, 2009. Like a lot of smaller funders, the 20-year-old McCarthy Family Foundation operated out of Treasurer Tim McCarthy’s home office. He learned a lot of important lessons about disasters the hard way after his home was among the hundreds of properties destroyed in the October 2007 San Diego wildfires. The foundation had no disaster evacuation or recovery plan. And it is in good company, according to Kris Putnam-Walkerly, president of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc., who has helped San Francisco Bay Area funders develop a plan to prepare for a major local disaster. … Continue reading Are You Prepared to Operate Your Family’s Philanthropy in a Disaster?
I’m thrilled to announce the 2010 Philanthropy411 Blog Team for the Council on Foundations Fall Conference for Community Foundations in Charlotte, NC! We’ll be blogging from Saturday, September 11th through Friday September 17th, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy will be re-posting many of our Team’s blogs on their Conference Notebook blog. The Council on Foundations also has its own blog team covering the conference, so be sure to check it out as well! The hashtag for this year’s conference is #cof10. As many of you know, a Philanthrophy411 Team blogged from the Council on Foundations Annual Conference from Denver earlier this year. We will also be managing a Blog Team for the Communications Network conference at the end of September, … Continue reading Announcing Blog Team for Community Foundations Conference