5 + 3 Ain’t Small Change


Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Colin Lacon, President and CEO, Northern California Grantmakers.

By:  Colin Lacon

On Saturday, ABFE hosted the James A. Joseph Lecture and Awards Ceremony. It honors an individual whose contributions as a visionary philanthropic leader helps to advances progressive philanthropic ideals, strengthen grantmaking institutions, and build vital black communities.  The very person who the lecture is named after, his life and his commitment to philanthropy are examples of such leadership.

This year the award recipient and lecturer was Ms. Crystal Hayling, the recently former CEO of the BlueShield Foundation of California.  Ms. Hayling has a long and deep history in our field, having worked for several prestigious foundations, with her work covering many areas with regard to civic participation, community advocacy, and social justice.  Her work primarily focused on health and health access.  Ms. Hayling’s speech topic was:  5 Things we know about grantmaking, but keep forgetting.  Her 5 things included:

  • Take great risk.  The kind that feels dangerous.
  • The time is now. Urgency is about doing, not waiting.
  • Design matters. How is as important as the what.
  • Technology is a power tool.  Reach and scale make a difference.
  • Encourage new leadership.  Change hearts, and change will follow.

More about these points can be found in a blog Ms. Hayling has provided about her speech.  These points are so important and are a true reminder and lesson for all who choose to make a difference in this work.

Alongside these significant urgings, Ms. Hayling made three overarching points that I want to take note of and ask us all to consider as we seek to add value in our efforts. As she gave the talk, Hayling wove her own live story into the 5 points above, she gave context from history where these lessons have been applicable, and she spoke with a passion that suggested time is short, work quickly! It became clear that she was not only making the 5 points on the how to do the work, she was giving a guide as to the frame of perspective you should come to this work with if you are to be genuine and true.  I believe she shared three frames or mindsets we should be attentive to as she told her own story.  They are:

  • Bring yourself to the work. Who you are matters!
  • Always be open to learning. What we don’t know can bring change.
  • Make a difference.  Don’t simply contribute.

It is so obvious that she has practiced in this manner, and that there is clearly an urging to include these sensitivities as we approach our work.

To say her speech was inspiring would not give justice to what Ms. Hayling set her sights to do, and what she accomplished.  She brought knowledge and learning in a human conversation, and gave a real lesson on how humility can lead great philanthropy.  She understood the need for clear metrics and measure and dared us to be not only accountable to our peers in this work, but to those who we do the work for to make conditions better.  And, she delivered hope, that philanthropy can me more than acts of good will –but a movement to change condition.

I would encourage us all to consider Ms. Hayling’s 5 points as ways to do the work, if only to explore innovation in our actions.  I also suggest that we consider the 3 ways in which her own actions and practice suggest we come to the work prepared with a frame and mindset.  Such reflection and consideration can only make us better focused and re-energized to do the work ahead.

It was a wonderful gift to receive her thoughts, reflection, and push to be generative and renewed in how we approach our mission within our work. I congratulate Ms. Hayling on her recognition and award; but truly feel we got the prize and gift by being recipients of her wisdom.

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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