Your Tools May Not Be What You Think…Get Out of Your Way!


Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Fall Conference for Community Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Jillian Vukusich, Director of Community Investments, Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties.  Follow Jillian on Twitter: @JCVukusich.

By:  Jillian Vukusich

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of visiting the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center to catch a show with my cousin. My thought was that the show, Mary Poppins,  would be a bit of an escape from loaded discussions and engaged interaction. Don’t get me wrong—this has been an incredibly energizing conference. However, I was thinking a little “spoonful of sugar” would provide some respite. Well, I was wrong, in a good way. (The show is incredibly dynamic by the way! Be sure to see it if it is coming to your town.)

So, in the first act, the young Banks children visit their father at his office…a bank of course.  As a client leaves Mr. Banks’ office after being denied a business loan, he hands a sixpence to each of the children and says something to the effect of, “The value of money is not its worth but rather what you do with it.” Boom! The rest of the show was about philanthropy to me.

At every session, in every discussion, even at a show about a woman who walks around with an umbrella in tow—we talked about change and using all of our tools in an effective way. Aside from financial resources, we have TONS of other tools such as:

  • Tool #1: Staff – The Next Generation conversation (blogged about by the vibrant Diana Seiger here) discussed how our staff members are an incredible asset. Find them. Grow them. Use them. Trust them.
  • Tool #2: Ability to convene – Secretary of Education Arne Duncan providing advice to community foundations. Our moral, neutral standings in our communities present incredible opportunities for convening.
  • Tool #3: Ability to innovate – My favorite quote from author Jeff Jarvis, “Do what you do best and link to the rest!” We’re all getting to the roots of our services and now is the time for partnership and innovation.
  • Tool #4: Leveraging – The presentation on workforce solutions provided excellent examples of how spending a dollar that leverage 60 times that is much more effective than spending sixty dollars that will never turn itself over. (Kudos to Chicago, Erie, Cincinnati and South Wood!)
  • Tool #5: Technology—Love it or hate, we have to use it. Technology came up at almost every single session I attended.

The list could go on. And this list isn’t new. But very rarely did the discussions turn to how much money it would take to accomplish x, y, or z. We need to get out of our own way. We need to be open to changing how we do business. We need to strengthen this sector so that instead of focusing on the Centennial of Community Foundations we can rest assured that the Bicentennial will be greater because of the decisions we make and actions we take now.

“Anything is possible if we can get out of our own way.” –Jane Banks

Some changes can be made.
You can move a mountain if you use a larger spade.
Jelly isn’t jelly till you set it.
[My favorite line!]

If you reach for the stars all you get are the stars.
But we’ve found a whole new spin

If you reach for the heavens
You get the stars thrown in.

Anything Can Happen, Mary Poppins

Disclaimer: In no way does this post advocate for drugging your kids so they’ll clean their room…with or without sugar. 🙂

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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