Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, recently covered the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team. This is a post-conference submission by Cole Wilbur, Trustee of the The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Steering Committee Member, National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers.
by: Cole Wilbur
All day Saturday and on Sunday morning before the COF Annual Meeting, some 26 people new to philanthropy, took the time to learn the basics at the Council’s Essential Skills and Strategies workshop . These included the big picture, rules and regulations, communicating between board and staff and with grantees, managing the grant portfolio, making a difference and rewards and tensions in the field. This is not everything one should know by any means, but it is a good start. Far too many in this field of philanthropy feel it is going to be easy and they do not bother to learn anything other than what their lawyer tells them they have to know. Those with experience in investments, think grantmaking should require the same approach. There are similarities, but also major differences. Some come into the field from academia or consulting and with virtually no training feel that since they know their own field they must understand philanthropy.
Much money has been wasted and little change made because CEO’s, program officers and board members do not understand how to use their foundation’s money to really make beneficial changes. Awarding grants is relatively easy, changing some portion of the world for the better is difficult. Grantmaking is not competitive. One can be arrogant, ineffective and inefficient and there is no loss of market share or assets and there will still be a line of applicants waiting. All of us can improve and I find myself continuing to learn when I read about, listen to and watch others who have a different experience and know more than I do. If you do not have the time to attend a Council meeting (there are three a year), find a good consultant to help you learn. The best of them help you to improve and learn and in turn you will be able to change the world for the better. Go to bed at night realizing that the lives of people in this world have improved because of what your foundation is doing.