Category Archives: consulting

15 Tips for Effective Communications Planning

I’ve helped dozens of foundations to develop and launch new grantmaking initiatives. One of the lessons I’ve learned is the importance of communications planning – early and often. As one colleague advised me, “Communications begins the moment you open your mouth and start talking about the idea of your initiative.”  Yet communications planning often gets overlooked.

To help one of our clients prepare for communications planning for a new initiative, I conducted brief research to identify recommended components of a communications plan, and approaches to communications planning. I wanted to share some of the key findings with you, in hopes that it helps you with communications planning for your philanthropic initiatives and programs.

A Strategic Communications Plan Should Have Internal And External Components

An internal communications plan is for everyone who has ever been involved in the planning of your initiative. This includes people such as all of your foundation staff and board members who have been involved conceptualizing and developing the initiative, planning team members, advisory council members, the community members who have ever participated in planning meetings, and other involved stakeholders.  Internal communications strategies for those most closely involved in current planning efforts, such as an e-newsletter to keep all the planning team members appraised of what each other is doing, will be very different from strategies to connect with broader stakeholders who don’t yet know about your efforts, such as policymakers, media, and community members.

The external communications plan is for anyone who hasn’t been involved, but who needs to be.  This might be the people who will benefit from your initiative, business, schools, policymakers, other funders who have not yet committed funds, community providers who have not yet been involved, the media, etc.  It also includes those who might be opposed to your efforts.

13 Components of a Communications Plan

A strategic communications plan should include the following:

1. Measurable goals and strategies – The communications plan should include clear and measurable goals and strategies. These goals should be as specific as possible. Avoid generic goals such as “raise awareness”, and make sure communications goals are realistic and can be accomplished with the human and financial resources available.

2. Target audiences

  • You will want to have agreement about who are the key internal and external audiences, what they key messages are for each audience, and what you want each audience to do as a result of hearing those messages.
  • Be as specific as possible about what you want to accomplish with each audience, and how communications can help. For example, communications with state policymakers will differ if you are trying to create policy change, or if you are trying to get a new line item in the state budget.
  • Think about audiences in two groups: those who will support your effort, and those who will be against it. Be sure to have strategies that address those who will be barriers to success (e.g., to see if you can turn some of them into supporters, or “frame the debate” to prevent their negative messages from taking hold)
  • Delineate the different sectors of audience (public, private, nonprofit, etc) as well as the different levels (local, regional, state)
  • News media is both an audience and a vehicle, so you should be clear on the role of media for each.
  • The “general public” is not a target audience.  You need to be more specific.

3. Identification of the message “frame” – The plan should describe how the initiative should be framed (e.g., “education will lead neighborhood residents to economic opportunity”). It should also identify what people’s current frame is (e.g., “schools in this neighborhood are horrible and students are getting a terrible education”), how you can communicate with them within their current frame, and how you will move them to the new frame.

4. Key messages and persuasive strategies – As mentioned above, while there might be one overarching message, different audiences will need different key messages. You will also want to identify the readiness of each audience to hear and act upon these messages, their core concerns so that you can ensure your messages are meaningful to them, and the messenger to share your message.  Additionally, there are different types of persuasion, and the plan should address how each persuasive strategy will be used to gain support. For example, rational persuasion uses technical data and logical arguments, while emotional persuasion uses values and emotion, such as photographs of happy children, to convey messages.

5. Opportunities and barriers for reaching key audiences – The plan should identify different strategies for and opportunities to reach key audiences with your messages. It should also identify barriers and how those barriers can be overcome.

6. Communications activitiesFor each goal and strategy, there will be a series of communications activities, or tactics, identified. Each activity/tactic should have a clear timeline, communications vehicles, people assigned to them, and a budget.

7. Communications vehiclesWithin each goal, strategy and tactic there will be different communications vehicles to use to carry your message to your audience.  This includes face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, e-newsletters, blogs, grassroots mobilization, policy reports, op-eds, community meetings, etc.

8. Crisis communicationsThe communications plan should include how to manage and communicate about any crises that might arise.

9. Implementation planThe communications plan should be accompanied by an implementation plan. This should be a very clear road map that lays out specific timelines, deadlines, activities, who is responsible, etc.

10. Monitoring and evaluationYou will want to track and measure success, so each communication goal and strategy should be measurable and evaluated. That way you can also make adjustments if certain strategies and tactics aren’t working.

11. Timing considerationsA realistic time horizon for a strategic communications plan is three years.  However, the communications plan should include immediate-, short-, and long-term goals and strategies. The implementation plan should help in determining how to prioritize and roll out the different communication components, strategies and tactics. Since your initiative will have immediate communications needs, you should identify what needs to happen immediately and what are some “low-hanging fruit” tactics that could be implemented to meet those needs, even before a full communications plan is developed. Some ideas include:

  • Initial materials
    • Fact sheet – This would be a simple document outlining the aim of your initiative, the timeframe, and who is involved.
    • PowerPoint deck that describes your initiative and conveys key messages. This can be used for both larger presentations, and also to “talk through” the initiative during one-on-one meetings. There might be slightly different versions of this for different audiences.
    • Talking points to ensure internal stakeholder leaders are conveying the same, clear messages.
  • E-newsletters or email updates to key stakeholders (brief)
  • Conducting a series of individual meetings with key stakeholders who have not yet been engaged to inform them about and begin to involve them in your initiative.
  • Identifying “ambassadors” who can help tell the story about your imitative. This can be helpful when many one-on-one meetings or group presentations are needed (so one person is not burdened with conducting them all).

12. Staffing – If a foundation has internal communications staff, it is very helpful for them to begin participating early in planning conversations. This enables them to understand the initiative so that they know how to communicate about it, and also ensures that planning happens with a communications lens. You might need to retain a communications consultant.  It will be helpful to have one person/firm responsible for creating a communications plan, and that this could be in-house staff or a consultant.  Whoever creates the plan should be someone with experience conducting strategic communications planning, preferably with complex, community-based initiatives.

One communications consultant is unlikely be have the skills, experience and capacity to meet all of your communications needs. The foundation could hire a consultant to develop the plan, and that consultant will likely be able to implement some parts of the plan but not all of them. That consultant should be able to help the foundation identify other vendors to help with specific pieces, such as media relations, advertising, community outreach, etc. That consultant could even serve as a coordinator/implementation manager of all the communications-related work.  Someone needs to be identified to manage the implementation of  the communications plan. You can find communications consultants who specialize in philanthropy and nonprofits through the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers and the Communications Network.

13. BudgetThere should be a detailed communications budget developed as part of the plan. This way, choices can be made regarding where to focus limited resources.  Like anything, communications can get very expensive, and the plan needs to match the resources available.

If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

15 Ways To Improve Grantee Communication at Your Foundation

This was originally posted by me as a guest blogger on the Philanthropy News Digest’s blog,  PhilanTopic, and re-posted on the Communications Network blog.

Clear communication with grantees matters:

Grantees are typically a foundation’s chosen agents of change, selected for their ability to create impact. The better a foundation can communicate its goals and strategies to grantees, the more effective these partnerships will be — and the more likely grantees will be to perform in ways that are consistent with the foundation’s goals. (Center for Effective Philanthropy).

Effective communication with grantees is not just the job of program staff, but of staff at all levels of the foundation – from administrative assistants, to human resources, communications, evaluation, and executive staff.  The California HealthCare Foundation believed this when it embarked upon a review of its grantee communications practices. Below are 15 recommendations for improving grantee communications that resulted from this effort (the full report, Improving Communication Between Foundation Staff and Grantees, is available for download)

15 Ways To Improve Grantee Communication at Your Foundation

  1. Consistently communicate your foundation’s goals and strategies through both written and verbal communication with applicants and grantees.
  2. Regularly discuss grantee communications challenges, best practices, and grantseeker feedback survey results at program team and staff meetings. Additionally, you can encourage regular meetings of program officer/program assistant teams to discuss the status of proposals, grants, and grantees, and even organize formal discussions for program assistants to share their strategies for successful grantee communications and to troubleshoot communications problems.
  3. Ensure program staff has adequate time and resources for consistent grantee communications and for building strong relationships with grantees.
  4. Incorporate grantee communications into staff performance appraisals.
  5. Conduct regular grantee satisfaction surveys to keep grantee experiences at the forefront and to track progress in making improvements.
  6. Pay special attention to communications measures that support grantee satisfaction and effective communication, as identified by the Center for Effective Philanthropy: These include measures  such as the quality of interactions with foundation staff, clarity of communication of a foundation’s goals and strategy, foundation expertise of the field, consistency among communications resources, and selection and reporting processes that are helpful to grantees.
  7. Make sure program staff consistently direct grantseekers to grant guidelines, templates and other resources designed to help grantees submit proposals and reports.
  8. Spend time talking with grantseekers about (1) Your selection process and timeline, and (2) The foundation’s and the applicant’s expectations (e.g., for final deliverables, reporting, communication during the grant period) before their grant proposal is finalized.
  9. If multiple foundation staff will be working with the same grantee, be sure that they coordinate their communication and expectations, and represent a “single voice” from your foundation.
  10. Develop a “grantee communication checklist” for program staff. We created one for the California HealthCare Foundation, which you can download and modify to meet your foundation’s needs.
  11. Compare your funding guidelines against the “common characteristics of highly successful funding guidelines” developed by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.  Make adjustments to your guidelines as appropriate.
  12. Consider conducting a communications audit and/or Web site usability testing.
  13. Solicit grantee feedback when making improvements to funding guidelines and Web site.
  14. Ensure that funding guidelines and Requests for Proposals (RFPs) make a clear connection between the funding opportunity and your foundation’s goals and strategies.
  15. Make sure it is very easy for grantseekers to find information on your Web site about how to apply for a grant.

Learn more about the California HealthCare Foundation’s efforts to improve grantee communications and assess impact.

Has your foundation made efforts to improve your communication with grantees? If so, what worked?  If you are a nonprofit, what foundation communication strategies work best for you? What do you wish foundations would do differently?  Please leave a comment and share your ideas!

About this project:  The California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) commissioned a Grantee Perception Report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy in 2009. Though its ratings related to both consistency and clarity of communication were statistically similar to or above those of other foundations, comments and suggestions from grantees indicated room for improvement in communication between staff and grantees. CHCF decided to retain Putnam Community Investment Consulting, Inc.  to identify ways to improve this communication. Putnam’s focus was to analyze the results of CHCF’s Grantee Perception Report and to conduct further research that included assessing grantee communications practices of CHCF program staff and other foundations, as well as examining the presentation of grantee resources on its Web site.

If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

Blog Team Coverage of the Council on Foundations Conference

Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, recently covered the 2010 Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a list of all posts published for this event.

  1. Kick off of Council on Foundations Blog Team, posted by Sterling Speirn, President and CEO, WK Kellogg Foundation
  2. Thoughts from the Pre-Conference Institute for Trustees & CEOs: “Insights for Philanthropic Leadership,” posted by Richard Woo, CEO, Russell Family Foundation
  3. A Lesson on Managing Risk, posted by Raymond Colmenar, Senior Program Officer, The California Endowment
  4. The New Meditation, posted by Richard Woo, CEO, Russell Family Foundation
  5. Nits Make Lice, posted by Mike Roberts, President, First Nations Development Institute
  6. Walking Around Philanthropy, posted by Mary Galeti, Vice Chair of the Tecovas Foundation
  7. 5 Things We Know, But Keep Forgetting, posted by Crystal Hayling, Winner of the 2010 James A Joseph Award from the Association of Black Foundation Executives
  8. Listen, posted by Aleesha Towns-Bain, Program Associate, Rasmuson Foundation
  9. Health, Equity, and Growth, posted by Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, PolicyLink
  10. On Fire, posted by Rebecca Arno, Vice President of Communications, Denver Foundation
  11. Choices, Choices, posted by Kim St. John-Stevenson, Communications Officer, Saint Luke’s Foundation of Cleveland
  12. So Many Great Sessions, So Little Time to Blog, posted by Sterling Speirn, President and CEO, WK Kellogg Foundation
  13. Thoughts on a Session – Social Justice: From Here to 2030, posted by Teri Behrens, Editor, The Foundation Review
  14. Charity AND Change; Social Innovation AND Social Justice, posted by Paul Connolly, Senior Vice President and Director, TCC Group, and member of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers
  15. Grantmaking, Tools, and the Long View, posted by Mary Galeti, Vice Chai, Tecovas Foundation
  16. Happy Birthday AAPIP!, posted by Richard Woo, CEO, Russell Family Foundation
  17. Standing Ovation Generation, posted by Jacob Harold, Program Officer in Philanthropy, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
  18. Social Justice Philanthropy, posted by Mike Shaw, Program Assistant, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  19. The “Yes-And-And” Strategy: Equity as the 21st Century Growth Model, posted by Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, PolicyLink
  20. Celebrating AAPIP’s 20th Anniversary Year-round, posted by Sokunthea Sa Chhabra, Director of Interactive Communications, Case Foundation
  21. Information and Power – Thoughts on Al Gore’s Speech, posted by Kathleen Reich, Program Officer, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  22. Is Institutional Philanthropy Structured to Support Successful Social Change?, posted by Lee Draper, Chair, National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers and CEO of the Draper Consulting Group
  23. Ah-ha Moments and Social Media (aka Why YOU Can and Should Use Social Media!), posted by Kim St. John-Stevenson, Communications Officer, Saint Luke’s Foundation of Cleveland
  24. Wish You Were Here…Al Gore’s Keynote Speech on Climate Change, the Imperative of Civic Engagement, and Philanthropy’s Opportunity to Play a Role in Shaping the Future, posted by Lee Draper, Chair, National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers and CEO of the Draper Consulting Group
  25. Blowing Up The Conference Model, posted by Sean Stannard-Stockton, CEO of Tactical Philanthropy Advisors
  26. Where Are the Arts?, posted by Lee Draper, Chair, National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers and CEO, Draper Consulting Group
  27. Living History: Amanche & Sand Creek, posted by Richard Woo, CEO, Russell Family Foundation
  28. Learn Essential Skills and Strategies in Philanthropy, posted by Cole Wilbur, Trustee of the The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and Steering Committee Member, National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers
  29. Memorable Mentions, posted by Richard Woo, CEO of the Russell Family Foundation
  30. Afraid of Losing Control with Social Media? Guess What, You’ve Already Lost it!, posted by Sokunthea Sa Chhabra, Director of Interactive Communications at the Case Foundation
  31. A Foundation’s Freedom – And its Responsibility, posted by Kristin Ivie, Program Manager of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation
  32. What’s Next for Diversity in Philanthropy?, posted by Henry A. J. Ramos, Principal at Mauer Kunst Consulting and member of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers
  33. Sitting at the Intersection: Affinity, posted by Colin Lacon, President and CEO, Northern California Grantmakers
  34. Myth Busting, posted by Rebecca Arno, Vice President of Communications at the Denver Foundation
  35. Becoming Masters of the Brand of Ourselves, posted by Mary Galeti, Vice Chair of the Tecovas Foundation
  36. Social Justice: Bringing it Home, posted by Henry A. J. Ramos, Principal at Mauer Kunst Consulting and member of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers
  37. 5 + 3 Ain’t Small Change, posted by Colin Lacon, President and CEO, Northern California Grantmakers
  38. Respect & Resolve, posted by Richard Woo, CEO of the Russell Family Foundation
  39. Racial Justice is Everybody’s Issue, posted by Rosetta Thurman, President of Thurman Consulting
  40. In Search of the Mind-Blowing Conference Model, posted by Philanthropy411′s very own Kris Putnam-Walkerly, President of Putnam Community Investment Consulting, and Vice Chair of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers
  41. Learn Essential Skills and Strategies in Philanthropy, posted by Cole Wilbur, Trustee of the The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Steering Committee Member, National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers

Special thanks to the Council on Foundations for their support of our Blog Team!  Check out their blog, re: Philanthropy, to read about their blog coverage of the conference and to stay abreast of the field!

If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

10 Great Resources for Creating a Theory of Change

What is a Theory of Change? According to ActKnowledge, a Theory of Change defines all the building blocks required to bring about a long-term goal. ‘Like any good planning and evaluation method for social change, it requires participants to be clear on long-term goals, identify measurable indicators of success, and formulate actions to achieve goals.’

Many people use it interchangeably with the term “logic model” but it differs from logic models  because it requires stakeholders to articulate underlying assumptions which can be tested and measured, and because shows a causal pathway from here to there by specifying what is needed for goals to be achieved.

According to Jim Connell and Adema Klem you should ask yourself whether your Theory of Change is:

  1. Plausible (stakeholders believe the logic of the model is correct: if we do these things, we will get the results we want and expect);
  2. Doable (human, political and economic resources are seen as sufficient to implement the action strategies in the theory);
  3. Testable (stakeholders believe there are credible ways to discover whether the results are as predicted);
  4. Meaningful (stakeholders see the outcomes as important and the magnitude of change in these outcomes being pursued as worth the effort).

My consulting firm has been helping foundations to develop theories of change for entire organizations, program areas, and initiatives. We’ve reviewed the literature about Theories of Change and wanted to share our top 10 resources with you, to help you with your social change planning:

For general information about what a Theory of Change is and some examples:

  1. Theory of Change As A Tool For Strategic Planning introduces the use of the Theory of Change approach for planning community-based initiatives using examples from the The Wallace Foundation Parents and Communities for Kids (PACK) initiative.
  2. Theory of Change.org is a collaborative project of the Aspen Institute and ActKnowledge, offering a wide array of resources, tools, tips, and examples of Theory of Change.
  3. ActKnowledge is currently piloting Theory of Change Online (TOCO), a free, web-based application to create Theories of Change and to learn more about the methodology.
  4. They’ve also provided a guided example of how one Theory of Change was developed.
  5. You Can Get There From Here: Using a Theory of Change Approach to Plan Urban Education Reform” by James Connell and Adema Klem gives an overview and an example in the field of education.

For useful manuals, facilitators’ guides, and tools to create a Theory of Change:

  1. The International Network on Strategic Philanthropy has a Theory of Change Tool Manual.
  2. Theory of Change: A Practical Tool for Action, Results and Learning” was created under the guidance of Tom Kelly (@tomkaecf) at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
  3. The Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change created “The Community Builder’s Approach to Theory of Change,” which is a practical guide for facilitators, including what to do before and during meetings with stakeholders, suggested participants, and recommended materials.

And to better understand the difference between a Theory of Change and a Logic Model check out:

  1. GrantCraft created “Mapping Change: Using a Theory of Change Approach to Guide Planning.” (BTW, GrantCraft has produced terrific guides on all aspects of grantmaking, so you should definitely check them out)
  2. Theories of Change and Logic Models: Telling Them Apart” is a helpful PowerPoint presentation.

If you recommend other resources, or have examples of nonprofit or foundation Theories of Change that you would like to share, please leave a comment!

If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me at @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

Looking For A Philanthropy Job? 20 Resources To Help You

When I was searching for my first foundation job, the CEO of a prominent family foundation told me:

“Philanthropy is a closed world, but once you’re in, you’re in. Take any program officer job you are offered, even if it’s a different content area than what you are interested in. Once you are working at a foundation, you’re seen as an “insider” and can network with other funders.”

That was accurate advice ten years ago, and I think it continues to be true. Although I think foundations are generally more open and accessible today than they were then, it can be difficult for someone to “break into” the field.  I was lucky enough to land a position at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which was tremendously helpful in training me to be a strategic grantmaker, and introduced me to many amazing program officers and foundation leaders.  I learned about this position the old-fashioned way – by networking – but in this economy no stone should be left unturned in a job search.

With that in mind I wanted to share some resources to help you land your next foundation job:

7 Websites With Foundation Job Listings

  1. The Council on Foundation’s Career Center provides national job listings at foundations. Anyone can search for positions, and for $25 you can post your resume (free to members).
  2. The Foundation Center’s Job Corner provides listings of current full-time job openings at U.S.-based foundations and nonprofit organizations. You can also search by organization type, job function, and state.
  3. Grantmakers Without Borders offers job listing with a focus on global issues and social change.
  4. Regional Associations of Grantmakers are great resources for local job listings.  For example, Ohio Grantmakers Forum and Philanthropy Northwest both have job listings on their websites. The Giving Forum lists jobs available at other regional associations, and you can also search for grantmaker associations near you.
  5. OnPhilanthropy’s Dot.Org.Jobs site includes some foundation jobs, although primarily lists nonprofit positions
  6. OpportunityKnocks lists foundation and nonprofit jobs nationally. You can post a resume and also get advice through their Nonprofit Jobs Resource Center.
  7. If you are looking for a nonprofit position, the Donor’s Forum provides a list of over 30 websites posting nonprofit jobs.

Most foundations also list their job openings on their websites. Some, like the Ford and Gates foundations, allow you to apply online.

Search Firms

Larger funders often turn to executive search firms to help them identify qualified candidates. Some popular firms include The 360 Group, Martha Montag Brown & Associates, DHR International, Bridgespan, and Phillips Oppenheim.

Anthony Tansimore, Executive Vice President of the search firm DHR International, offers this advice to job seekers:

It’s not easy to get a job in a foundation and there are many paths. The first thing I do is issue a caution. I talk to quite a lot of people who want to make the jump into a foundation from a nonprofit or from the corporate sector. They think the work is easier and they will make more money.

Second, think about what you’re passionate about. Think about what kind of difference you want to make in the world, and investigate the foundations that are doing that work. Get to know the program officers and ask for an informational interview.

Third, ask about fellowships that encourage people to pursue careers in philanthropy or the nonprofit sector. The San Francisco Foundation, for instance, has a fellowship program to encourage more people of color to enter philanthropy, and the typical fellow is younger in age and career.

Fourth, become informed and share your knowledge. If you know a lot about an issue, write and speak about it so that you are seen as an expert and someone to whom foundations will turn to gain more knowledge on the subject.

Lastly, when you reach out to a search consultant, know that that person’s client is the organization that wishes to hire staff. Do not expect the consultant to serve as an agent to place you in a terrific position, so limit your expectations to meeting someone new and sharing your resume.

If you are under forty years of age and new to philanthropy work, you should check out Emerging Practioners in Philanthropy, which provides terrific networking and educational opportunities. And if you prefer to hang out your own shingle you should check out two of my earlier posts, “So, You Want To Be A Philanthropy Consultant,” and “Starting A Consulting Business? 15 Things To Do Right Now.

How did you land your first foundation job? Do you recommend other resources for finding a position in philanthropy?  Leave a comment and let us know. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe! On Twitter? Follow Philanthropy411 at @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

17 More Foundation Resources on Twitter

As a follow up to 21 Community Foundations, 90 Foundations, and 20 Funder Networks That Tweet, here are more 17 foundation resources you should follow on twitter.

Foundation Center

The Foundation Center is a fabulous national organization whose mission is to strengthen the nonprofit sector by advancing knowledge about U.S. philanthropy. The Foundation Center offers a searchable directory of foundations; free or low-cost webinars, workshops and classes; resources such as Philanthropy News Digest and PubHub; useful research on the impact of the economic crisis on foundations and nonprofits; and friendly librarians who are happy to help you. They have offices in five US cities (Cleveland, San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC, and Atlanta), all of which tweet, and hundreds of cooperating collections across the country. OK, I must confess that I serve on the Advisory Board of the Foundation Center-Cleveland, but I was an avid fan even before that. I highly recommend following them on Twitter:

Additionally, at least one cooperating collection of the Foundation Center – the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, MD – is on Twitter @Grants_Pratt

Philanthropy-related publications

To find the latest news about the philanthropic sector, check out:

And don’t forget Philanthropy News Digest @pndblog, a service of the Foundation Center mentioned above.

Other funder resources:

Lastly, here are a few random resources to follow on Twitter:

  • @onlyfoundations – This is a twitter feed of web content from private foundations, corporate givers, and other nonprofit funders.
  • Charity Navigator @charitynav – Charity Navigator evaluates the financial health of over 5000 of the largest US charities
  • Guidestar @guidestarusa – Guidestar is a searchable, online database of information about nonprofits and foundations, including 990 Forms, financial information, annual reports, reviews, etc.
  • Philanthropy Archives (at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) @philanthropyArc – Collection of historical records of foundation, nonprofits, and donors

FYI, I purposefully chose not to include philanthropy consultants (like myself!) on this list, although there are some terrific ones with useful, thought provoking Twitter content. I know there are hundreds if not thousands of people on Twitter who would describe themselves as philanthropy consultants, so it would be challenging to post a list. Although not yet on Twitter, anyone looking for a foundation consultant can check out the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers’ searchable, online directory of consultants.

If you can think of other useful philanthropy resources on Twitter, please add a comment to share them. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe! On Twitter? Follow Philanthropy411 at @Philanthropy411

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly, President of Putnam Community Investment Consulting © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2009

Starting A Consulting Business? 15 Things To Do Right Now

In my last post, “So, You Want To Be A Philanthropy Consultant?” I offered 5 questions to consider if you want to become a philanthropy consultant.  No matter what your industry, if you want to take the consulting plunge, here are 15 practical things you should do right away:

  1. Open a business checking account – This is really quite simple. If you like your current bank, walk in and explain that you’d like to open a business checking account. Deposit all of your business income into this account, and write all business-related checks out of this account. This will make for much cleaner bookkeeping and tracking of business income and expenses.  You might also consider a business savings account. I used this to set aside money for taxes (every time I deposited a check, 30% was transferred into my business savings account to save for my quarterly tax payments)
  2. Dedicate one of your credit cards for business expenses only – Similar to having a checking account dedicated to your business, you should have a credit card for all business-related credit card purchases to keep them separate from your personal purchases.  You can use an existing card, and simply declare that starting on X date, this card is dedicated to your business.
  3. Talk to an accountant, preferably someone with small businesses experience – An accountant can help you understand things like how to pay quarterly taxes, how to structure your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, S Corporation), and what business expenses are deductible.
  4. Talk to an insurance agent or broker – There are several types of insurance you will want to have for yourself: health insurance, disability insurance, and general liability insurance are among the most common.
  5. Make yourself available online – If you google your name, what comes up? It should be a description of your consulting services, complete with information on how to contact you. Even if you don’t want to spend the money just yet on a website, make sure that you have a web presence. This can be done by setting up a profile on LinkedIn and ZoomInfo, and adding yourself to online consultant directories.
  6. Print business cards – Don’t worry if you haven’t figured out your business name and business identity. For now, get some basic business cards inexpensively printed up with “Your Name, Consultant” and your contact information. You need to be able to hand them out at meetings with potential clients and networking events.
  7. Set up a “safe” mailing address – This is important if your office will be at home. Unless you feel completely comfortable sharing your home address with complete strangers on your business cards, website, letterhead, and social networking media sites, I strongly suggest getting a mailbox at your local UPS Store or post office.  This will also come in handy if you live in an area where FedEx packages cannot safely be left at your doorstep.
  8. Set up a business phone line – If there is any chance that your five year old might answer the phone, or your teenage kids could be heard screaming in the background, don’t use your home phone for your consulting business.  You could use your cell phone, but remember once you start giving out your cell phone you can’t take it back.  Many clients will call you in the evening or on the weekends simply to leave a message, because they will assume you have a professional office and they won’t be bothering you in off hours.
  9. Learn everything you need to know about consulting from Alan Weiss. I recommend Alan’s book “Million Dollar Consulting” to everyone who wants to start a consulting business. He’s written many other books, and offers a variety of other services: coaching, workshops, webinars, etc. You can learn more at his website.
  10. Set up a dedicated office space – This could be in your home, or you could rent office space. If your office is at home, make every effort to create a space that is just for your work, and does not double as the dining room, living room, or  your bedroom. It’s important to be able to close a door and not be reminded of work when you are trying to relax.
  11. Tell everyone you know that you are starting a consulting practice, and that you are looking for projects.  People can’t hire you if they don’t know you started consulting! Be as specific as possible regarding the services you offer, the types of projects you are looking for, and who your ideal clients are.
  12. Learn everything you need to know about marketing your consulting business from Robert Middleton and Action Plan Marketing. Action Plan Marketing specializes in helping professional services business attract more clients. His website is full of useful information, much of it free.
  13. Find an anchor client – Easier said than done, it is tremendously helpful to find an “anchor” client. An anchor client provides you with about 25% of your business revenue for several years, so that you are at least guaranteed you can pay your rent or mortgage! When I got started, I was fortunate to be retained on repeat consulting engagements with the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation for 5 years.
  14. Join a consultants group – This is a great way to learn from other consultants and find consultants to partner with on larger projects. There might be a local consultants group in your area and industry. The best way to find out is to ask other consultants.  Philanthropy consultants can also join the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers.
  15. Network, network, network – You never know where your next project will come from, so it is important to be in regular contact with a range of potential clients. Set a goal for the number of people you want to set up phone calls or lunch meetings with each week. Don’t stop networking when you have plenty of work – the best time to network is when you are busy, and you can share all the great things you are doing for other organizations.

Good luck with your consulting practice and let me know if you have other tips to share. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe! On Twitter? Follow Philanthropy411 at @Philanthropy411

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly  © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2009