Determine which approach to grantmaking works best for your foundation In philanthropy, there is much written about responsive and strategic approaches to philanthropy. Which approach is the most appropriate? Meaningful? Effective? Grantmakers have many roles to play in a community, and how they define those roles can vary greatly, so it’s important for foundations to understand both strategic and responsive options to determine which approach may be preferable. Responsive grantmaking is being open to receiving proposals and ideas from any nonprofit and allowing the nonprofits to drive the agenda. Requests are initiated by the nonprofit, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but it does mean that within … Continue reading Responsive vs. Strategic Grantmaking: Which One is Right for You?
Here are five ways to elevate your outcomes and impact to extraordinary levels. I love to read about best practices — within and outside the field of philanthropy — and to gather examples from my work with foundations. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from thinking about ways that things done well can be replicated, scaled or embraced to positive effect. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize five best practices that “ordinary” grantmakers have adopted to elevate their outcomes and impact to extraordinary levels. Here’s what these extraordinary grantmakers can teach us: 1. Create a culture of innovation. Extraordinary funders cultivate conditions necessary to support innovation in organizations, and they follow a four-step process to help that innovation … Continue reading 5 Best Practices of Extraordinary Grantmakers
Giving happens in many different ways. When we see the images of horrific damage brought on by hurricanes in the Caribbean, Florida or Texas, or by the earthquakes in Mexico, we are moved to send money in response. Through a simple financial transaction, we’ve helped address an immediate need. The same is true when we support a local food pantry to provide a meal for a hungry family, when we donate to a homeless shelter to keep a single mother and her children off the street or when our gifts to a domestic violence service agency help a battered woman escape an abusive relationship. This type of transactional philanthropy is important and necessary to help those in immediate crises meet … Continue reading Transact Or Transform: What Kind Of Giver Are You?
What will you fund, and what will you not fund? It seems like a simple question on the surface, but any funder knows how quickly one can be overwhelmed by the complexity. Depending on your mission and capacity, your focus could include broad program areas such as health or education. Or, it might be concentrated in specific areas like increasing access to high-quality early childhood education. In general, there are three potential levels of change that I encourage my clients to explore to determine where they can effect change, based on their capacity: People Organization Fields For the sake of example, let’s assume your interest is in substance abuse treatment. Your funding focus could take one or more of the … Continue reading 3 Potential Levels of Change to Determine Your Funding Focus
On a recent trip to Mexico City, I was delighted to find a Starbucks right next door to my hotel. For a moment, I felt sort of guilty that I was being an imperialist coffee drinker and that I should go find an amazing Mexican coffee experience to try. But a quick gut check proved the opposite: I was jet lagged from an ill-advised red eye flight from San Francisco, and my priority was caffeine in the form of coffee that I could depend on. I like Starbucks’ Pikes Place blend and I needed the comfort and reliability of its consistent quality. A few weeks later, I was walking in Palo Alto to — you guessed it — a Starbucks. I walked … Continue reading Why Consistent Quality is Key to Your Philanthropic Relationships
Call ‘em what you want – in my 18 years advising foundations and philanthropists I’ve seen the terms “regional association of grantmakers,” “funder networks,” “affinity groups,” “philanthropy communities,” and more – and now the new term is “philanthropy-serving organization” (PSO). Whatever you call it, the value is timeless – bringing funders of similar interests, types, sizes, and/or geographic locations together to network and learn from each other. In my work advising foundation CEOs, I’ve noticed that as leaders transition to new roles and move to new organizations, and as foundation priorities and grantmaking strategies evolve, many funders fail to take advantage of – and sometimes fail to even notice – PSOs that might meet their evolving needs. For example: Consider … Continue reading There’s a Philanthropy-Serving Organization for That!
Too often foundations request “innovative ideas” from their grantees but fail to accomplish the same thing internally — or even define what “innovation” means to them. The implied assumption is that innovation “just happens.” Further, lack of clear definition has come to imply that innovation must be a dramatic, game-changing, disruptive new idea or practice: the iPhone of early childhood education, the Post-It note of economic development. As a result, the expectations for innovation are both so high and so fuzzy that most people naturally feel intimidated, not realizing that they too can create innovations and that innovation is not the exclusive domain of those who are smarter or more creative. After reading a book called The Innovation Formula by business gurus Michel … Continue reading 4 Steps for Fostering Innovation
Years ago, my father owned a company that made a business of storing information on microfiche. (Remember microfiche?) As the computer age dawned, he was definitely an early adopter and enthusiast in our home. He was swept up in the latest and greatest developments and it seemed as if he read everything published about computers and computing. He was caught up in all the chatter and noise about this new industry, but the irony is, he missed the one true signal he needed to hear: computers would revolutionize the information storage industry. If he had paid attention to the signal instead of the noise, perhaps his company would have been an industry leader today. But instead, he missed the opportunity … Continue reading What is Signal and What is Noise?
Site visits are a very valuable tool for funders, because they give you first-hand insight into the places and personalities that will put your charitable investments to work. In-person visits are always best, because they allow you to tour facilities, see programs in action, and observe grantees at work. However, sometimes a grantee can be hundreds – or even thousands – of miles from your foundation office, and getting to their location might be more than your schedule or budget may allow. In that case, consider conducting a virtual site visit. A virtual site visit uses web-based audio and visual connections to facilitate a face-to-face interaction with grantees or grantseekers. They are particularly helpful if your grant awards team (or … Continue reading Short on Time and Money? Consider a Virtual Site Visit
I love developing new grant initiatives for foundations and individual philanthropists. There is nothing more exciting that identifying a problem where you have the potential to make a difference and then putting a plan in place to do just that. However, once the fanfare has subsided, I’ve noticed that many funder initiatives lose steam. Frustration builds as the approach that seemed so promising barely seems to make a dent in the problem, and certainly isn’t delivering the results it should. Here are three reasons why funding initiatives can fail instead of flourish: You didn’t learn from others Your new effort to ensure all children are reading by 3rd grade, transform public education in your state, or provide rural communities with … Continue reading 3 Reasons Your New Funding Initiative Will Falter