Nothing creates heart pounding ghoulish fear in the minds of a grantee like hearing from their funder: “We’re about to start strategic planning.” A funder undergoing strategic planning can put the nail in the coffin for grantees…at least temporarily. Philanthropic strategy development seems to last forever. During this time, and often behind closed doors, the funder might “suspend grantmaking” to “evaluate priorities and approaches.” This leaves nonprofits to wonder if this dark period will lift. And when it does, will the funder still support their organization? Strategy development is important. It helps philanthropists clarify what they want to accomplish. It should lead to change. But it doesn’t need to leave grantees screaming at their desk chairs! You don’t want to … Continue reading One Guaranteed Way to Scare Your Grantees!
Get out of your own way and transform your giving. I recently learned from a client that the first thing she does each day is read a chapter from my award-winning book Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders and reflect upon how it relates to her work. She said, “It was helpful to get my mind oriented to where it ought to be. Less focused on tasks and more focused on, ‘Where are we going and how do we get there?’” As a writer and an advisor, I cannot begin to tell you how meaningful it is to hear this. To learn the advice I share in my newsletters and books helps philanthropists be more effective each day is powerful. I can help … Continue reading Free Download and New Book Coming February 2020
Get excited and be prepared to launch your new initiative. After a long summer of late nights, fun in the sun and a relaxed schedule, families across the country are preparing for kids to get back to school. There’s a lot of build up to that first big day – planning for cooler weather, getting school supplies, buying new clothes, reuniting with old friends, and making new ones. There is a magical sense of anticipation, excitement and butterflies that makes the start of each new school year memorable and special. What potential new friendships will this year bring? What new and exciting things will be learned? Starting the year off right prepares students, teachers and parents alike for a successful … Continue reading 6 Back to School Lessons for Grantmakers
Do more than ready yourself for the unexpected. We have been told for most of our lives to prepare for the unexpected—save for a rainy day, have a Plan B and apply to some “safety schools” in case you don’t get accepted by your top-choice university. While being prepared for the unexpected is smart, it’s not as important as being prepared for the expected. As a philanthropist, your ultimate goal is to make the world a better place. To put ideas into action and create change where it is needed. One way to achieve this impact quickly and effectively is to be prepared for the expected. Problems will arise—that’s a guarantee—so you might as well be ready to deal with them. … Continue reading How to Prepare for These 5 Grantmaking Challenges
Beat it back — or stop it before it even starts! We often hear about streamlining philanthropy — mostly with regard to efforts at simplifying grant applications, approval processes and reporting requirements. Streamlining is great. But when it comes to philanthropic bureaucracy, sometimes what we really need is a bulldozer. Some bureaucratic processes are so ridiculous, they just need to be demolished. Here’s a great example of philanthropic bureaucracy: 300-page board dockets. Imagine the joy on the board members’ faces when they receive those reams of paper in the mail to prepare for each board meeting. Imagine the hours and hours of foundation staff time that went into creating those reams of paper. Now, do you really think that anyone … Continue reading Demolish Philanthropic Bureaucracy For Good
A board member’s job includes staying focused on the big picture. Serving on the board of a philanthropic foundation isn’t just about approving grants. It’s about being a good steward of resources and sharing responsibility for the foundation’s impact. Too often the focus tends to be on board meeting preparation and the efficiency of these meetings. Take a moment to break from the routine and consider asking your foundation CEO these questions to help the organization focus on the big picture. 1. How does this fit within our strategy? Let’s say your CEO announces, “We’re going to engage in a county-wide campaign to increase public transportation.” That sounds like a great idea, right? Who could be against public transportation? That’s … Continue reading 6 Questions A Foundation Board Should Ask Its CEO
Most funders fail at this. Are you one of them? About a year ago I decided to publish another book. I went so far as to write “publish book by year’s end” on a yellow post-it and stuck it next to my computer so that I’d see it every day. And then I let a bunch of other stuff get in the way. Client deadlines, speaking engagements, scheduling camp for my kids. I hadn’t made the book a priority, so nothing happened. A year later I changed. I made the book one of my top three priorities. Then I made a list of the most important things I needed to do to publish it. I blocked out time in my … Continue reading 10 Steps to Rapid Strategy Implementation
Strategy most often fails in implementation. With all the effort that went into developing your new strategy and writing your strategic plan, the hardest part is making the darn think work! Many donors, foundations and corporate giving programs create strategic plans to clarify their philanthropic goals and guide funding decisions. Too often, however, their new strategy doesn’t even get off the ground. Here are five reasons for this: 1. You are exhausted. If you are like most foundations and philanthropists, you have spent WAY too long developing your strategy. Endless meetings, environmental scans, self-assessments, board assessments, finding and engaging a small army of content experts, writing and re-writing the perfect strategic plan document (complete with beautiful graphics and theories of change). … Continue reading Your Strategic Plan is About to Fail
How new foundation trustees can have lasting and effective success. Whether you are launching a new foundation, refreshing your giving strategy, or are a new foundation board member, you want your philanthropy to change the world. Yet you feel unsure how to tackle complex social problems and wonder if you have what it takes to make a difference. It’s vital for new foundation leaders to determine your goals and implement your strategy without becoming mired in a culture that stifles effectiveness. To help educate and guide foundation boards toward early and lasting success, I have compiled a list of eight common mistakes foundation trustees often make — and how to avoid them. 1. They make the simple complex. Too often … Continue reading 8 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting Out In Philanthropy
Free yourself from the daily grind and support your best work. Keeping up with board meetings, grant applications, new partnerships, changes in technology and more can make the day-to-day work of managing a foundation very full, and sometimes overflowing. Every foundation CEO or board chair needs to create space for something more, though—your own way of pausing the routine and thinking bigger. I like to call it a “secret weapon.” It varies for each individual, but the outcome is the same: allowing time to better reflect, think and inform your philanthropy. What do you read? There’s no shortage of information available to better advise your work. Most clients I talk to are frustrated with information overload. Yes, that is something … Continue reading What’s Your ‘Secret Weapon’ In Philanthropy?