Isn’t it Time You Embrace an Abundance Mindset and Invest in Yourself?

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Investing in yourself and your giving today will reap rewards tomorrow!


Too many funders have a scarcity mindset. Are you one of them? 

In last week’s newsletter, I shared eight ways you can ditch your scarcity mindset, and instead embrace a mindset of abundance. Even better, none of them will cost you any money!

But today I want to tell you that sometimes embracing abundance includes investing resources in yourself, your philanthropy, and your organization. 

After all, you want to power your philanthropy with innovative ideas and top talent. You want expert guidance to navigate your philanthropic decisions. You want your foundation or family office built upon well-oiled systems, useful technology, and agile leadership. 

To do that, you need to invest in yourself. Yes, I mean you. And your grantees.

Investing in Yourself 

Embracing abundance includes investing resources in yourself, your philanthropy, and your organization. 

After all, you want to power your philanthropy with innovative ideas and top talent. You want expert guidance to navigate your philanthropic decisions. You want your foundation or family office built upon well-oiled systems, useful technology, and agile leadership. 

Here are a handful of places where investing in yourself—and your philanthropy—will reap rewards: 

1. Organizational capacity. When you have limited capacity, it can be hard to think with an abundance mentality. But making a big impact doesn’t mean you have to be the biggest funder. Sometimes it means identifying your gaps in operations or knowledge and finding the most efficient way to fill them. 

The Heising-Simons Foundation in Silicon Valley was preparing for significant growth over a three-year period due to an influx of assets. This included tripling its staff, tripling its grantmaking budget, and building out new offices to accommodate its growth. CEO Deanna Gomby knew the foundation would need a strong communications function, but at the time the foundation lacked a communication plan and had limited capacity. She enlisted the help of consultants to develop an initial plan, identify options for staffing-up a communications department, develop a communications budget, and provide interim communications support until communications staff could be hired. 

2. Talent. Think about the talent you need to launch, manage, and grow your philanthropy. This could include in-house staff (a CEO, program officer, or assistant), outside advisors (your philanthropy advisor, impact investment advisors), an organization that provides back-office management (donor-advised fund sponsor or family office), or your trustees. It also includes you. 

Now, think about how to obtain top talent, and what investments you might need to make in their success. From your board chair to the administrative assistant, your team could have greater impact if they had the support, training, and leadership opportunities. This could involve retaining a trusted advisor or executive coach, increasing program staff’s grantmaking authority, eliminating bureaucratic hurdles within your operation, training assistants in customer service and allowing them to resolve problems, developing a pipeline of leadership, or bringing all your outside advisors together to coordinate their approaches to helping you. 

You can also pay ongoing attention to diversity, inclusion, and equity within your philanthropy. In their report “The Exit Interview,” the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) identified that many black professionals were leaving jobs in philanthropy because they felt isolated; had limited opportunities for professional-track training, networks, or support systems; and sometimes felt their expertise was not valued by colleagues. They recommended opportunities to “improve career pathways for Black philanthropic professionals in grantmaking institutions and ensure their perspectives are brought to grantmaking decisions.”

3. Technology. As we’ve seen during COVID, the right technology can help your organization communicate more quickly and effectively and reach decisions faster. While it’s true that you don’t need every shiny new gadget that comes on the market, you and your team do need ready access to technology such as upgraded computers and software; online grant application, grants management, and constituent relationship management (CRM) systems; cybersecurity; and tools for sharing and collaborating. These are not luxury toys but necessary tools to help you create impact. Some innovative foundations are elevating the role of technology in their strategy and grantmaking by embedding technologists into their program teams. 

4. Learning. Creating a culture of learning in your organization requires a focus on intentional learning. That includes sharing knowledge even when there may not be a direct benefit to your organization. One community foundation gives an annual award to a nonprofit that best exemplifies excellence in management. The rigorous application reviews nonprofit staffing, planning, technology, community engagement, and more. One year, the foundation decided to turn the process inward. They filled out that application themselves and committed to publishing it as an annual report. That meant publicly admitting areas of weakness. But it also showed their donors, nonprofits, and community leaders they were serious about running a strong organization and were willing to learn and improve. 

Investing in Your Partners 

Ultimately, every investment you make in yourself is going to benefit your nonprofit partners—and help you implement your strategy and achieve your goals. However, there are a few things you can do to invest in them directly.

1. Take time to build a trusting relationship with grantees. You want your grantee partners to come to you when a problem is emerging or when new opportunities arise. To do that they need to trust you. One nonprofit arts organization was using four different Excel spreadsheets to manage donors, attendees, ticket sales, and more—but was too afraid to ask their funders for a grant to create a single database. They worried their funders would think they were poorly managed and stop funding them. So, they hobbled along, wasting time and losing money. They had lots of funders, but none with whom they had a trusting relationship to discuss their true problems and ask for the help they really needed. 

2. Stick with grantees through challenging times. Changing the world isn’t going to happen overnight, and your grantees need your sustained support over a prolonged period of time to create lasting change. Life is probably nerve-racking enough for your grantees without them constantly worrying whether or not you’ll still be providing support to them a year—or a month—from now. This is especially the case in challenging times. When Advocates for Children and Youth (ACY) in Baltimore, a longtime nonprofit partner of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, struggled with the departure of its CEO and lost a massive portion of its funding, the foundation decided to stick with them. 

The foundation could have held back funding to wait to see what happened during the executive transition. Instead, it intentionally invested in ACY to make the transition a success. Explained Rafael Lopez, who was at the time an associate director at Annie E. Casey Foundation, “The composition of talent in our field is changing daily. We need to be supporters of organizations that do the hardest work on the ground, and we must recognize infrastructure changes as critical. Our field historically sees professional development as a luxury, but you can’t address the toughest challenges without leaders to drive change.”

3. Make sufficient investments in your grantees’ infrastructure, organizational capacity, and long-term planning. This might include providing multiyear funding, paying for the true costs of running programs, and offering core operating support. It does no one any good if your grantees don’t have enough funds to operate efficiently and to effectively pursue their mission and goals. 

4. Support the competition. There’s generally not a lot of “competition” in philanthropy, but there is in business. Corporate funders express an abundance mindset when they invest in projects regardless of whether that investment also helps their competition. For example, when Blue Shield of California ended the year with a surplus, it created a $20 million grantmaking program to support accountable care organizations at 18 California hospitals, health systems, clinics, and physician organizations. They celebrated the fact that it would benefit even their competitor insurance companies. They had their eyes on the prize of serving underserved populations, reducing health care costs, and enhancing the quality of care 

How Will You Know If You Are Embracing an Abundance Mindset? 

As you adopt these practices, how will you know when you and your organization are successfully making the transition from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset? When you or the people in your organization have an abundance mindset, you’ll routinely hear questions and statements like these: 

  • Who are the top experts in the country (or world) who can advise us? 
  • How much more impact can we have if we add additional capacity to our funding initiative? 
  • Who are the best people we can get and what is the most strategic use of their time? 
  • If our program was to become a national model, what would that look like? What can we put in place now to accomplish that? 
  • If we really want to make a difference on this issue, we need to make a multiyear commitment (because we understand that change takes time). 
  • What tools, resources, or technology will help our grantees become more effective? 
  • Let’s magnify our impact by leveraging relationships and partners. 
  • It’s OK if our corporate funding initiative also benefits our competitors. It will improve outcomes for everyone, and we will learn a lot. 
  • Let’s talk with our grantees to better understand their experience with us so that we can improve. 

Once you start hearing comments like these, and seeing the improved outcomes they lead to, you’ll wonder how you ever managed in the “bad old days” of a scarcity mentality. And as your abundance mindset becomes strong, you’ll know the value of the standard airline advice to “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” 

You can’t help others unless you help yourself!

If you are wondering what investments you might need to make in yourself, your philanthropy, or your grantees, let’s talk! I’m happy to jump on a call with you to discuss what you want to accomplish, what’s holding you back, and what changes you can make to increase your impact and joy. Just schedule a call with me today!

 

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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