Do more than ready yourself for the unexpected. We have been told for most of our lives to prepare for the unexpected—save for a rainy day, have a Plan B and apply to some “safety schools” in case you don’t get accepted by your top-choice university. While being prepared for the unexpected is smart, it’s not as important as being prepared for the expected. As a philanthropist, your ultimate goal is to make the world a better place. To put ideas into action and create change where it is needed. One way to achieve this impact quickly and effectively is to be prepared for the expected. Problems will arise—that’s a guarantee—so you might as well be ready to deal with them. … Continue reading How to Prepare for These 5 Grantmaking Challenges
How Small Investors Can Change the World “Small but mighty” is a phrase we’ve seen applied time and again to describe something that seems too little to notice but that packs a wallop when it comes to impact. A boy named David fells giant Goliath with a single stone. An ant moves a rubber tree plant. The electrons of two hydrogen atoms bond with an oxygen atom, creating life-giving water. A small funder makes a philanthropic investment that changes the world. It’s entirely possible. Unfortunately, the thing that most frequently holds small funders back is their own belief that they’re too small to make a big difference. In fact, small funders are often well positioned to be the catalyst or … Continue reading Small Donors, Big Thinking
Follow a program development life cycle to achieve the greatest funding impact. Our society focuses on getting things done. Check the box. Scratch it off the list. Move on to the next thing. But when it comes to making lasting change, funders should think of their work in terms of a cycle, not a linear progression. This doesn’t mean funders should run in circles, but they should realize that impact comes from a “life cycle” approach to developing and launching grantmaking programs and funding initiatives. The same process can be applied to funders. I call this the Foundation Program Development Life Cycle, and I have identified its six stages. Stage One: Plan Think about what you want to accomplish, then … Continue reading Are You Running in Circles or Making an Impact?
Smart philanthropy starts with an effective approach to our work. In philanthropy, we seem to be perpetually rushing from one thing to the next. There’s always an important meeting to prepare for or more grant applications to evaluate. Yet while everyone is feeling busy and moving quickly, the real change we seek comes along at the pace of snails. Instead of spending all of our valuable time working harder, we should also determine how we can work smarter. We all get into daily work patterns—some of them healthy, some not. How often do you find yourself so focused on your to-do list that you’ve lost track of why you’re doing the work? Everyone can improve their work habits, and even if the changes are … Continue reading 6 Ways To Get Time Back In Your Day, Every Day
Have the most impact possible in your charitable giving. If you want to achieve dramatic impact in philanthropy you need to know where you’re going, you need to get there, and you need to know if and when to change direction or find better routes along the way. Here are three conditions to remember: Strategy formulation. Simply put, if you don’t know where you are going you’ll never get there. Formulating your strategy means identifying your desired future – what kind of change do you want to see in the world or what kind of organization do you want to become? Having a strategy is helpful because it provides a framework that allows you to make smart decisions and choices, such … Continue reading 3 Conditions for Dramatic Impact in Philanthropy
Summer is fast approaching, and while you might be dreaming of sunny beaches and lazy summer days, you might also feel anxious about the progress you have not yet made during the first half of the year. Wasn’t it just January when you were making plans to change the world? And here we are days away from June 1st. How much progress have you made in your personal and professional goals? If you are like many of us, not as much as you hoped. Yikes! With the busyness of summer — family vacations, packing the kids up for camps and activities, and projects around the house — it can be hard to imagine finding the time or the energy to … Continue reading Fend Off Post-Summer Panic Before It Even Starts
Take your philanthropy and your effectiveness to the next level. Maybe you’ve been practicing philanthropy for a while and you’ve mastered the basics — the essentials you need to create a solid grantmaking strategy and process. How do you take your work and your effectiveness to the next level? It’s one thing to be competent; it’s another to go beyond the basics and really hone your craft. Here are four smart grantmaking practices that will help you do just that: Practice #1: Organize your work around your values. One of my clients was the new CEO of a health foundation. When she started she was delighted to see that words like “evaluation,” “learning,” “transparency” and “results” were written everywhere in the foundation: … Continue reading Beyond The Basics: 4 Smart Practices Of Savvy Grantmakers
Are you damming up philanthropic progress by paralyzing decision making and workflow? Nature abhors a bottleneck. Take a look at any stream or river and you’ll see what happens when debris piles up. The water will eventually find a way around, over or through, and the results can be disastrous. The same is true for workflow in philanthropy — especially when funders are the ones creating the bottleneck. As funders, we often forget — or never truly realize — how much our decisions and actions can affect our grantees and partners downstream, and thus the people and causes they serve. When we delay decision or action, those who depend on our decision can get caught in limbo. If they’re grantees, … Continue reading Are YOU The Bottleneck To Effective Giving?
Beat it back — or stop it before it even starts! We often hear about streamlining philanthropy — mostly with regard to efforts at simplifying grant applications, approval processes and reporting requirements. Streamlining is great. But when it comes to philanthropic bureaucracy, sometimes what we really need is a bulldozer. Some bureaucratic processes are so ridiculous, they just need to be demolished. Here’s a great example of philanthropic bureaucracy: 300-page board dockets. Imagine the joy on the board members’ faces when they receive those reams of paper in the mail to prepare for each board meeting. Imagine the hours and hours of foundation staff time that went into creating those reams of paper. Now, do you really think that anyone … Continue reading Demolish Philanthropic Bureaucracy For Good
A board member’s job includes staying focused on the big picture. Serving on the board of a philanthropic foundation isn’t just about approving grants. It’s about being a good steward of resources and sharing responsibility for the foundation’s impact. Too often the focus tends to be on board meeting preparation and the efficiency of these meetings. Take a moment to break from the routine and consider asking your foundation CEO these questions to help the organization focus on the big picture. 1. How does this fit within our strategy? Let’s say your CEO announces, “We’re going to engage in a county-wide campaign to increase public transportation.” That sounds like a great idea, right? Who could be against public transportation? That’s … Continue reading 6 Questions A Foundation Board Should Ask Its CEO