Category Archives: leadership

Isn’t This Supposed to be Fun? 5 Ways to Put the Joy Back in 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

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Boardroom Battles: 5 Ways to Move Beyond Conflict

Over the last 15 years, I’ve consulted with a few clients who, in the midst of our strategic planning sessions or evaluation efforts, must deal with the added stress of handling conflict within their boards. At best, these conflicts are time- and energy-consuming hassles. At worst, they can derail an entire planning or implementation process or bring a foundation’s momentum to a screeching halt. I’m happy to report that extreme conflict is the exception rather than the rule. Most board members are rational, committed professionals. However, even among the most collegial boards there’s always the possibility of conflict, and savvy foundation leaders I know have used the following approaches to diffuse disagreement smoothly and quickly. Remain impartial. Never take sides. … Continue reading Boardroom Battles: 5 Ways to Move Beyond Conflict

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Your Attention, Please!

If you have ever been a parent of young children, you probably know the utter agony of trying to teach your children to read. Night after night my husband and I sit with our 6-year-old twins and slog through early reader books with titles like A Lucky Day for Andrew and Birthday Surprise. We help them sound out “j-u-m-p” and “s-l-o-w-l-y”, offer encouragement (“you’re half-way done, and you only need to read the entire book two more times!”), suggest proper reading posture (“it would help if you sat up,” “if you shake the book it’s hard to read,” “get your hands out of your pants”) and try to stay awake. It’s truly painful. But there are lessons in reading to … Continue reading Your Attention, Please!

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Similar and Different: 5 Key Shifts from Hospital Board to Private Foundation Board

The sale of a nonprofit hospital or health plan to a for-profit company can yield a great deal of change for a community, including the creation of a new, independent foundation created from the proceeds of the sale. In many cases, these new entities represent a significant new source of community wealth – and where assumptions may be that the actions of the new foundation may be closely tied to the clinical work of the hospital and the philanthropic efforts of the former hospital or health plan, the reality is often vastly different. Likewise, board members who previously served on the hospital foundation and are now on the board of the new, independent foundation may find themselves falling back on … Continue reading Similar and Different: 5 Key Shifts from Hospital Board to Private Foundation Board

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3 Unexpected Lessons That Stuck

More years ago than I care to count, I received a Masters in Social Work from San Francisco State University. Although I never practiced as a clinical social worker, I consider myself to be doing “macro” social work every day. The lessons I learned in that program have contributed a great deal to my work in philanthropy, first as a foundation staffer and now as a consultant. However, the three lessons that have stuck with me the most vividly, and have proven to be stalwart wisdom throughout my career, have little to do with social work per-se and everything to do with how our world works. They guide my thinking in every project, my personal and professional interactions, and the … Continue reading 3 Unexpected Lessons That Stuck

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To Convene or Not to Convene? 4 ways to make the most of coming together

Foundations have a unique and important role to play as a convenor. They can provide neutral ground for discussion. They have the social capital to compel attendance. And if all else fails, they usually have the budget for better-than-average meeting food. But I believe that foundations also have a responsibility to use their convening power wisely, and to remember that convening is a tool and not an end in and of itself. Many foundations make the assumption that convening grantees or stakeholders is the best way to gather information and input, or instantly show the foundation’s interest in community engagement, build consensus, or surface parties that may want to work together in new ways. But oftentimes convening isn’t the best … Continue reading To Convene or Not to Convene? 4 ways to make the most of coming together

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10 Mistakes New Foundation Boards Make, and How to Avoid Them (Part 2)

Last week, we looked at five mistakes that new foundation boards often make, and how to avoid them. Below are five more practices that may get new boards off to a rocky start. Fortunately, they’re all avoidable with a little foresight, planning and honest introspection. Failing to learn The opportunity to expand your knowledge doesn’t stop with what you have to know. Instead, consider all of the aspects of governance, visioning, planning, collaborating, and grantmaking that you could learn because you want to know. If your foundation focuses on a particular interest area, such as education or health or social justice, consider engaging in conferences, trainings, reading, conversations, and consultations with experts to increase your knowledge. In addition, recognize the … Continue reading 10 Mistakes New Foundation Boards Make, and How to Avoid Them (Part 2)

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A New Year’s Resolution: Be a Disrupter for a Day

This is a guest post by Allen Smart, Interim President and Vice President of Programs, and Nora Ferrell, Director of Communications, at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust Most of us chose the world of philanthropy because we wanted to make a difference—the same goes for our friends in the nonprofit arena. But soon, some of us realize that “making a difference” isn’t enough—what we really want is to make an impact, to change what needs to be fixed. Then, after awhile of trying to make an impact, we figure out that making change—the kind of change that sticks—is really hard. We reflect on our experiences, and we realize that our best shot at lasting change requires disruption. Because how … Continue reading A New Year’s Resolution: Be a Disrupter for a Day

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The 5 Dysfunctions of Philanthropy

In 2002, Patrick Lencioni wrote a book called, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It explains the interpersonal aspects of teambuilding in a professional setting and how they undermine success. Although Lencioni’s team is in a fictional company, his lessons also are entirely relevant to grantmakers. Here’s my take on how Lencioni’s five dysfunctions can affect philanthropy. Dysfunction #1 – Absence of trust. Lencioni describes this as the unwillingness of team members to be vulnerable to the rest of the group. This is completely understandable and a deeply rooted component of human nature. It’s hard to admit weakness to your teammates when everyone shares a drive for success. But grantmakers take this dysfunction to a new level when it comes … Continue reading The 5 Dysfunctions of Philanthropy

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Turn “Thank You” into Ongoing Growth and Development

We all know how great it feels to be recognized and applauded for a job well done, and you can shine a spotlight on emerging leaders and key issues by creating a leadership recognition program. But before you dive in, answer these three questions — they’ll help you build a program that meets your own needs and acknowledges those you want to reward.   1. Who benefits? Consider these four stakeholders: Your honorees – By acknowledging those who lead a nonprofit, you open doors to their future success, helping them gain recognition, legitimacy — and, perhaps, greater funding. Your honoree’s organization – Your acknowledgment benefits organizations as well as individuals, creating new awareness and helping the group build capacity, collaborate, … Continue reading Turn “Thank You” into Ongoing Growth and Development

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