Becoming Masters of the Brand of Ourselves

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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 Mary Galeti, Vice Chair of the Tecovas Foundation.

By:  Mary Galeti

The last session I sat in on, “NextGen: What else do I Need for the Journey? Skills for Leaders Aiming for the Top”, the always brilliant Trista Harris made the following observation: “We’ve had to become masters of the brand of ourselves”.

I immediately nodded in agreement to the comment, but as I sat with it for a bit longer, I started to become a bit uneasy.  She’s right–especially as young people, the first place we go to get information (about people, places or events) is the internet.  The new “crucial first impression” is from whatever one might have posted on Linkedin, or Facebook, or their website or Twitter feed.  We have yet to really adjust to that phenomenon, as a community, but we will get there.

That’s not what makes me uneasy.  What makes me uneasy is the power of that brand, in collision with the field.

Certain philanthropic entities have incredible brands that immediately conjure up images of influence, effectiveness and leadership in their respective program areas.  There are many others who have created a reputation for outstanding and dynamic work.  What happens, however, as the personal brand collides with the institutional brand.  Will institutional success be significantly undermined by individual reputational problems (as it already is in politics), or vice-versa?

Will people have to undergo “rebranding” when they change jobs, or sectors ? What are the potential ramifications for the field?  Will ‘who’s in the room’ begin to matter a lot more, if individual brands start to hold significant clout?

What’s next for a field being increasingly composed of ‘individuals’ doing the work as a collective, rather than a collective working together?

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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