If These Walls Could Talk


photodune-5189735-the-wall-mFoundations spend a lot of time and money defining the messages they want to share about themselves and their work, but those messages don’t always reflect the real story. What goes on inside the walls can be very different (and eventually, the truth will out). If the walls of your foundation could talk, what would they say?

  • What’s going on? Your foundation may lack direction or a clear sense of purpose, and those within it might feel like they’re often stumbling in the dark. Perhaps this is because the goals are not clearly defined, or the ways in which they are communicated internally could use a boost.
  • Who are these people? If your foundation focuses too much on filling traditionally defined roles, you might miss the talents or skills that could help shift perspectives and transform grantmaking.
  • I feel overweight. Your foundation could be overburdened with work that could be outsourced or streamlined, or there could be processes and administrative hurdles that you could simplify or eliminate.
  • I see dead people. Founding donors or past leaders can linger in the hallways for a long time. While honoring donor intent or the achievements and ways of doing business that helped make the foundation what it is today, it’s also important to adapt as times change.
  • I could do so much more. If your foundation always sticks to the tried and true, you may be missing new and powerful ways to increase impact. Tradition, processes, lack of awareness or interest, or even fear can hold your foundation’s true potential.

But those aren’t the only sentiments that foundation walls might share. There are many organizations that embrace positive personas as well on the inside as they do on the outside. If you are one of these organizations, what would your walls say?

  • Who are you? Your foundation is genuinely interested in those within and outside its walls. What skills, strengths and knowledge does everyone bring to the community? How can the foundation help them deliver positive impact?
  • I’ll bring the pasta, you bring the sauce! When foundations appreciate collaboration and working with others, it shows. Being aware of ways to work together always cooks up something fulfilling.
  • How’s that work? Curiosity is a hallmark of your foundation. Asking questions and relishing opportunities to learn from others can lead to innovative grantmaking and a more powerful community impact.
  • Let’s do this thing! Your foundation’s clear sense of mission, purpose and strategic direction are hard to hold back. Furthermore, their enthusiasm and drive can be infectious to those around them.
  • Come on in! Your foundation has a welcoming nature that makes others feel at home, valued and eager to work with you to achieve common goals. When your community thinks of valuable leaders and partners, they think of your foundation!

It’s true, walls can’t really talk, but hosting a discussion with colleagues about what your walls might say can open everyone’s eyes to both opportunities to improve and areas where you excel. So at your next staff gathering, ask “If our walls could talk, what would they say about us?”

Kris Putnam-Walkerly is an award-winning consultant and advisor to philanthropists. Learn more about how she helps grantmakers give confidently for dramatic return including client results and client testimonials. You can also download her podcast series on iTunes.

© 2015 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

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