Tag Archives: funder

5 Back-to-School Lessons for Philanthropists

It’s back-to-school time across most of the country, and my colleagues and I have all been trading stories of the build up to that first big day. Whether it’s pre-K or high school, there’s always something special about starting out on a new year. New clothes, fresh supplies, seeing old friends and making new ones — all of these things combine to create that magical sense of anticipation, excitement and butterflies that makes the moment memorable and can provide a positive launching pad for the entire year-long experience. I’ve also found that same sense of excitement and anticipation in my work with funders who are launching a new initiative or an entirely new philanthropy. There is the same sense of … Continue reading 5 Back-to-School Lessons for Philanthropists

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How to Strike Fear in the Hearts of Grantees

In my experience, few words strike fear in the hearts of foundation grantees like the following, when dropped by a program officer’s lips:  We’re about to start a strategic planning process.  Aarrrgh! Nooooo! I can almost hear the screams of terror here in my top-secret vacation retreat spot. And who can blame them?  A funder undergoing strategic planning often pulls the rug out from under grantees, at least temporarily, while the funder “suspends grantmaking” for a few months or even a year to “evaluate priorities and approaches.”  During that time, grantees might be asked to answer questions about their work, participate in discussion or focus groups, or even (gulp) share their opinions with funders in person. And all the while, … Continue reading How to Strike Fear in the Hearts of Grantees

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What Being Pregnant with Twins Taught Me About Philanthropy

Almost every aspiring mom (and dad) has big plans and preconceived ideas about what pregnancy will be like. You picture the way your life might change, you plan out a nursery, order a crib – it’s pretty straightforward stuff. Straightforward, that is, until you discover you’re having twins. Suddenly, all those plans and preconceptions go out the window, and you have to rethink everything. The basic premise is still the same – you’re bringing new life into the world and want to raise it well – but now the reality in which you’ll operate is vastly different than expected. The realities in which foundations operate bring similar shifts and challenges on a regular basis. We start out our careers or our … Continue reading What Being Pregnant with Twins Taught Me About Philanthropy

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3 Ways to Reduce Labor Intensity

Grantmakers, and their consultants, tend to overcomplicate things. Let me give you two simple examples of how this wastes time and prevents success. First: biweekly meetings. I’ve worked for funders who wanted me to stage biweekly meetings, for groups both large and small. In all cases, the process came before the goal: Each funder decided to have biweekly meetings before thinking about what they really wanted to accomplish. How effective the meetings were in reaching the goal was not a consideration. Second example: one-year grants. Offering a year of funding sounds fiscally responsible, since you’re checking for success before funding another year. But if you’re really likely to keep funding this organization, aren’t you being fiscally irresponsible? Think about the … Continue reading 3 Ways to Reduce Labor Intensity

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