How Small Investors Can Change the World “Small but mighty” is a phrase we’ve seen applied time and again to describe something that seems too little to notice but that packs a wallop when it comes to impact. A boy named David fells giant Goliath with a single stone. An ant moves a rubber tree plant. The electrons of two hydrogen atoms bond with an oxygen atom, creating life-giving water. A small funder makes a philanthropic investment that changes the world. It’s entirely possible. Unfortunately, the thing that most frequently holds small funders back is their own belief that they’re too small to make a big difference. In fact, small funders are often well positioned to be the catalyst or … Continue reading Small Donors, Big Thinking
Follow a program development life cycle to achieve the greatest funding impact. Our society focuses on getting things done. Check the box. Scratch it off the list. Move on to the next thing. But when it comes to making lasting change, funders should think of their work in terms of a cycle, not a linear progression. This doesn’t mean funders should run in circles, but they should realize that impact comes from a “life cycle” approach to developing and launching grantmaking programs and funding initiatives. The same process can be applied to funders. I call this the Foundation Program Development Life Cycle, and I have identified its six stages. Stage One: Plan Think about what you want to accomplish, then … Continue reading Are You Running in Circles or Making an Impact?
Smart philanthropy starts with an effective approach to our work. In philanthropy, we seem to be perpetually rushing from one thing to the next. There’s always an important meeting to prepare for or more grant applications to evaluate. Yet while everyone is feeling busy and moving quickly, the real change we seek comes along at the pace of snails. Instead of spending all of our valuable time working harder, we should also determine how we can work smarter. We all get into daily work patterns—some of them healthy, some not. How often do you find yourself so focused on your to-do list that you’ve lost track of why you’re doing the work? Everyone can improve their work habits, and even if the changes are … Continue reading 6 Ways To Get Time Back In Your Day, Every Day
Have the most impact possible in your charitable giving. If you want to achieve dramatic impact in philanthropy you need to know where you’re going, you need to get there, and you need to know if and when to change direction or find better routes along the way. Here are three conditions to remember: Strategy formulation. Simply put, if you don’t know where you are going you’ll never get there. Formulating your strategy means identifying your desired future – what kind of change do you want to see in the world or what kind of organization do you want to become? Having a strategy is helpful because it provides a framework that allows you to make smart decisions and choices, such … Continue reading 3 Conditions for Dramatic Impact in Philanthropy
Stop endless planning and catapult yourself to your desired future. The term “strategic planning” is an oxymoron. Formulating your strategy equates to determining your desired future state—for example, what change you want see in your community, what organization you want to become, what type of person you want to be. Implementing your strategy means moving from your current state to your desired future state as quickly as possible. Planning, however, is incremental. We ask ourselves what we can accomplish a year or two from now, given current resources and priorities. And then we let all kinds of things get in the way. “Well, we have that conference to organize and that will take a few months, then we need a few months to plan for … Continue reading You Need A Strategic Catapult (And I’ll Tell You Why)
Every delay in our approach to philanthropy delays our ability to change lives and make an impact. When it comes to your philanthropy, do you feel a sense of urgency? Are you striving to be a responsive investor who makes a difference through true social change? Or do you still adhere to the old-school philanthropic style of sitting around fancy boardroom tables and talking politely while poring over mounds of documentation? If you find yourself falling into the latter category, it’s time to pick up the pace! Why should you change your approach? Because every delay prevents our ability to have an impact — and impact in philanthropy is about people’s lives. When we’re talking about ensuring access to high-quality … Continue reading How To Pick Up The Pace And Have Greater Impact In Philanthropy
I just got back from my family’s annual month-long vacation to Chautauqua Institution, New York. In between long walks with my husband, taking our kids boating on Lake Chautauqua, and countless dinner parties with friends, I was retained by three new clients, booked a speaking engagement, became a “practical advice” content partner to Alliance Magazine (the leading magazine for the global philanthropic sector), and was asked to be the new “international expert on strategic philanthropy” for an online European philanthropy news outlet (more on that in the coming months). Sounds like a pretty productive vacation, right?! I’m often asked by my advising and coaching clients how they can create a better “work-life balance.” And I share the advice I’ve learned … Continue reading Get a Life
Engage more deeply in learning about the issues you address and the places you serve. Effective grantmaking rarely happens if grantmakers spend all their time behind their desks. Solving intractable problems requires that funders have a true understanding of the issue, a range of partners to join in the work and an ability to continually learn from collective actions and apply that learning to ongoing efforts. None of these three things is possible if funders don’t get out of their offices and into their communities, face-to-face, on a regular basis. Here are four reasons for grantmakers to leave the office and break out of the bubble: 1. You learn more than if you’d stayed in the office. Imagine a program officer … Continue reading Leave The Office And Break Out Of Your Bubble
Get rid of vague terms and confusing philanthropy jargon forever. In my line of work, I pick up a lot of interesting stories from the front lines of the foundation world. Some are inspiring, some heart-wrenching, and others downright funny. This one made me want to both laugh and cry simultaneously. A foundation leader told me that he and his staff were fed up with the amount of philanthro-speak that appeared in foundation documents — especially in the foundation’s grant guidelines. Vague terms like “innovative,” “equity,” “empowerment,” “disruption,” “intersectionality,” “sustainability,” “collective impact,” “best practices,” and “systemic,” were rife within the guidelines document. Grantees, confounded by the language, attempted to make up for their lack of clarity by peppering those same … Continue reading Are You Driving Your Staff (and Grantees) to Drink?
Grantmakers are always looking for impact. We define the quantitative outcomes we want to achieve with our funding. We collect qualitative evidence through stories of those whose lives are changed as a result of our work. But we often forget to look for and capture the “ripple effect” of the grants that we make. Here are two examples: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recently gave a grant to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County to update its business model. As part of that updating process, the Community Foundation is collecting and curating data about the business models of other community foundations across the country. They will share that information widely with their peers, who are hungry for it. Hence, … Continue reading Looking for Impact? Don’t Overlook the Ripple Effect