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?
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
Take your philanthropy and your effectiveness to the next level. Maybe you’ve been practicing philanthropy for a while and you’ve mastered the basics — the essentials you need to create a solid grantmaking strategy and process. How do you take your work and your effectiveness to the next level? It’s one thing to be competent; it’s another to go beyond the basics and really hone your craft. Here are four smart grantmaking practices that will help you do just that: Practice #1: Organize your work around your values. One of my clients was the new CEO of a health foundation. When she started she was delighted to see that words like “evaluation,” “learning,” “transparency” and “results” were written everywhere in the foundation: … Continue reading Beyond The Basics: 4 Smart Practices Of Savvy Grantmakers
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
6 Questions to Regularly Ask Yourself and Your Partners Most philanthropies seek to be strategic and have an impact. Yet few build their own internal capacity to be strategic grantmakers. In particular, most funders forget to intentionally learn from their initial piloting and testing of strategies so that they can make early modifications and course corrections. Learning isn’t hard to do, but it must be intentional, documented, discussed within your team, and it must lead to decision making. It can’t simply exist inside a program officer’s head. One of our clients asks themselves, “What will make or break this grant?” when deciding whether to recommend a significant grant to their board. They are clear on the risks involved and what … Continue reading Are You Really Learning and Improving?
A simple lesson can start a child on a lifetime of philanthropy. Philanthropy is an instinctive impulse. Watch a roomful of toddlers, and you’ll see how even very young children naturally are concerned about other children who are upset. Part of this is human nature, and part of it is nurture. The early lessons we teach our children about caring for others, including through our gifts of time and money, are lessons they carry with them always. One of the simplest ways I know to invest in your child’s philanthropic spirit is by using three empty jars. Starting as early as preschool for some children, but definitely by elementary school, begin the practice of preserving a little money to share … Continue reading Teach Giving With Three Empty Jars
How funders undermine their own success. Is your philanthropic practice suffering from delusional altruism? How will you know? Funders may think they’re doing things right when they are, in fact, employing policies or practices that unintentionally cause unpleasant consequences for themselves and those they serve—and sometimes even cause more harm than good. This is what I call delusional altruism. Although delusional altruism is rarely intentional, it is pervasive, and its manifestations among funders can be difficult to recognize. Here are five common examples: Adopting a poverty mentality instead of an abundance mentality. The juxtaposition of poverty and abundance has nothing to do with money and everything to do with mindset and attitude. A poverty mentality is really a misguided belief that … Continue reading 5 Manifestations Of Delusional Altruism
Maintain a habit of intentional learning. As a funder, it’s regrettably easy to stay in a “bubble” of isolation — either constrained mentally by one’s own assumptions and knowledge, or even physically by never leaving the office and venturing out into the community. If you’re in a bubble, you probably aren’t intentionally undermining your own effectiveness, but you are deluding yourself that you’re achieving the impact you’d like to see. For effective grantmaking to really happen, you need to break out of the bubble, and make an effort to deeply understand and connect with the communities you serve. The bubble-breaking process starts with a commitment to truly becoming a learning organization. Many funders claim they want to learn, but … Continue reading Break Out of Your Bubble with a Learning Agenda
A culture of learning is one that encourages ongoing inquiry and questioning. It is comfortable with the fact that there is always more to learn and explore, and therefore the “work” of learning is never-ending. Learning is at the core of all research and development. The more you approach work with a sense of curiosity and inquiry, the more you can research and develop new approaches. This can be a challenge for foundation staff or boards who are geared toward finding the “one” solution to a challenge, checking it off the list, and moving on. But the culture of learning and ongoing inquiry is why cell phones now fit in the palm of your hand, and why more cancers are … Continue reading Create a Culture of Learning