We all talk about big data, evaluation, dashboards and bench marks. But we tend to collect a lot of data and then end up unsure about what to do with it. Most of the time, it’s just 20% of the data that provide us with 80% of the information we need to make better decisions. Let me share a recent example of what I mean. I walked into the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto CA one morning for coffee. As I was drinking it, I heard the front desk clerk answer the phone, say “Yes, 72% and 395…you’re welcome,” and then hang up. I asked her what the numbers were for. She explained the hotel is at 72% capacity … Continue reading What Are Your Two Key Indicators?
By Justina Acevedo-Cross, Program Officer, & Jeff Sunshine, Program Officer, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation For just a moment, pretend you’re a public health official and you’re faced with stopping a new pandemic. You have a vaccine that mitigates the disease in one dose and completely cures it in two, but only enough to fully treat half the population. Do you treat everyone halfway or completely cure only half? This catch-22 situation also faces funders who want to see a good idea expand quickly. Do you roll out the basics of a successful program or idea as far and fast as you can to maximize access, knowing that you’ll sacrifice quality in the process? Or do you take your time and … Continue reading Guest Blog- Starting with Quality: A Decision Point for Summer
A week ago, our country was in a totally different place than it is now. Regardless of your politics, there’s no question that we are most certainly entering some very uncertain times. Like everyone else, grantmakers of all stripes are looking around, trying to figure out how we got here and what the new lay of the land will be. Here are seven things that immediately come to mind as we consider the next four years: 1- Don’t beat yourself up. The election outcome made it clear that many of us in philanthropy have overlooked the sentiments of a silent but seething portion of the country. But while it’s great to be reflective and introspective and think about what your … Continue reading The Next Four Years: Keep Moving Forward
I hope you’ve had a great summer. Vacations, plenty of pool time, a little rest and relaxation — and lots of playing outside. Now it’s time to hunker down and get back in that office to get things done, right? Wrong. In my opinion, one of the last places a grantmaker should be is in the office. As foundation staff and trustees, we want to see solutions to community problems. There’s no way to create those solutions without getting out there and forging multiple connections. And there are few people better suited to building those connections than those of us who work in the philanthropic world. Building connections isn’t something you can do behind a desk. You need to get … Continue reading Get Back Out There!
There are many rules of thumb and lists of best practices out there for grantmakers. Yet, so many grantmakers seem to get caught in ruts of practice and policy that hold them back from achieving the effectiveness and impact they want to deliver. Here are five of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen through my practice, and even seasoned grantmakers make them over and over again: 1 – Cutting yourself off from new ideas I believe in the power of strategic philanthropy – being focused on your goals and funding the strategies and practices that you believe will lead to the greatest impact. However, many strategic funders take this idea to the extreme and refuse to entertain new ideas, … Continue reading 5 Common Philanthropy Mistakes You Cannot Afford to Make
Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, but I am not sure many foundations fully believe that. In the course of working with foundations across the country, I have made a somewhat surprising discovery: Many foundations grossly underestimate the importance of evaluating impact. This is unfortunate, because evaluation is both enlightening and empowering. In fact, measuring impact can give you power to ultimately increase that impact. Here are five reasons why foundations should regularly conduct evaluations. 1. Evaluate to measure impact. The first reason to conduct evaluations is plain and simple: How will you know if you have had any influence unless you evaluate the effectiveness of your grantmaking program? There is really only one way to learn what the … Continue reading The Power of Taking Stock: 5 Reasons to Conduct Evaluations
You and your staff can probably leap tall buildings in a single bound. But you might not be able — or willing — to tackle every single need that presents itself. It might be time to hire a consultant. If you are wondering just how much help consultants can be, here are 20 ways they can make your life easier. Perform needs assessments – The more ingrained we get in our work, the harder it is to see the big picture. A strategic consultant can provide an overview of your organization and help you determine where you have real gaps and where you need to make strategic change. Conduct environmental scans – It would be great to know who else … Continue reading 20 Ways a Consultant Can Make Your Life Easier
We all need friends and colleagues who have our backs. But maybe we need something else, too. Maybe we need someone who can think like the enemy. The CIA calls it the “Red Team.” The military, the Federal Aviation Administration, and major corporations like IBM also use the term to refer to a group designed to penetrate your defenses — with your enthusiastic approval. This idea isn’t often discussed in philanthropy circles, but I believe it holds tremendous value for us. In any organization, a Red Team is charged with finding out what can go wrong, where the holes are, and why what you’re trying to do won’t work. The point is to question your assumptions, plans, operations, concepts, and … Continue reading Special Ops: 5 Situations for Deploying a Red Team
Foundation and nonprofit staff are spread thin enough. And sometimes expecting hardworking staff to strategize and carry through an entirely new project, on top of handling their ongoing responsibilities, is asking too much. Consultants can take some of the burden off of staff while providing a new perspective and expertise. They may also increase your organization’s credibility. Here are the five reasons most foundations and nonprofits enlist the help of outside consultants. 1. Time. Staff temporarily busy, or not enough staff? A consultant can fill in for a staff member on leave or serve as a “staff extender” to an existing team. For example, one of my family foundation clients was growing quickly. The CEO planned to hire more program officers … Continue reading Don’t Need a Consultant? 5 Good Reasons You Might Be Wrong
Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, but I am not sure many foundations fully believe that. In the course of working with foundations across the country, I have made a somewhat surprising discovery: Many foundations grossly underestimate the importance of evaluating impact. This is unfortunate, because evaluation is both enlightening and empowering. In fact, measuring impact can give you power to ultimately increase that impact. Here are five reasons why foundations should regularly conduct evaluations. 1. Evaluate to measure impact. The first reason to conduct evaluations is plain and simple: How will you know if you have had any influence unless you evaluate the effectiveness of your grantmaking program? There is really only one way to learn what the … Continue reading 3 Reasons to Evaluate Your Grantmaking