In my experience, the most effective foundations do one thing without fail – they ask the question guaranteed to save time and money, and achieve results. That question is this: “If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?”
If you ask that question of your grantees, other organizations working on the same issue, and other foundations that have attempted to do what you’re trying to do, I guarantee you will reap the benefits. Listen to what they have to say, implement their suggestions, and you will save your foundation staff time, financial resources, and headaches. You will also have a much more successful grantmaking program, and it will happen much faster than if you hadn’t asked the question.
Here are a few times when asking “If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?” will help you. Ask this question when you are:
- Conducting an environmental scan to plan your next funding initiative (you could ask this of other communities, other funders, nonprofits, potential grantees).
- Determining the best approach to evaluating your grant portfolio and what qualities to look for in an evaluator (you might ask this of other funders who have conducted evaluations of similar portfolios or of similarly complex funding efforts).
- Assessing the impact of your grantmaking strategy and determining what “phase 2” might look like (you could ask your grantees, partners, stakeholders, and even your own staff).
- Improving your foundation’s organizational practices, such as how you review grant proposals, communicate with grantees, become a Lean organization, or improve your customer service (you could ask this of your staff, and of other foundations who have undertaken similar improvement efforts).
It’s simple, right? Ask the question, listen to the answers, implement the suggestions, save yourself time and resources, get faster results, and have greater impact. I guarantee it works.
Let me ask you a question: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? E-mail me your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be sure to share them so that we can all learn from each other, act efficiently, and get the best results.
Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2014.