Tag Archives: Philanthropy

5 Tips for Strategic Grantmaking

photodune-5426795-strategic-planning--sToday I was fortunate to listen to a terrific webinar on the “Unique Challenges of Strategy for Foundations” provided by the Phil Buchanan and Ellie Buteau  of the Center for Effective Philanthropy as part of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers webinar series. Here are 5 tips I heard on the webinar that I think are helpful for any foundation – large or small,  global or local, those seeking to become strategic for the first time, and those seeking to sharpen or modify their strategies.

  1. Don’t worry about being unique, focus on being effective. Foundations aren’t competing with each other the way McDonalds and Burger King are. If the foundation down the street or across the country is achieving some amazing results, and if those results could be either enhanced with additional investment or expanded to your community, why not join in.
  2. Don’t be afraid of strategy – CEP’s research has uncovered many myths related to strategy in foundations, including strategy being dispassionate, too “business oriented”, too limiting, and not allowing for course corrections.  In fact, none of this is true. Funders who are most aware of the environment in which they are operating, have a vision for what they want to accomplish, and a road map to get there (plan + logic model) are the most successful and adaptable.
  3. Don’t stress yourself out. Start small. If strategy is a new concept for your foundation, it’s best to not go whole hog and revamp your entire foundation. If you seek to make too many changes, too fast you risk being unsuccessful. I saw this happen with one client, a prestigious and well intentioned family foundation. It sought to move from being a generalist health and human services grantmaker to a strategic grantmaker with the help of a high profile consulting firm.  Several years down the road the trustees determined they were not happy with the direction, and abruptly pulled the plug — leaving staff, grantees, partners, and key initiatives hanging. It was unfortunate and could have been avoided.
  4. Involve your staff, board and relevant stakeholders. It is critical that they “own” the strategy. If they don’t own it, they haven’t bought into it, and they won’t be successful in implementing it. In my experience this is not an area where you should cut corners, speed up the process, or give lip service.  Allow the time it takes to involve people. Surface concerns and listen to their ideas and suggestions.
  5. Start with your goal.  Make sure everyone is clear on what you want to accomplish or the desired state you seek to achieve. Then figure out how to get from here to there. Don’t start from your current state and move incrementally.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy offers some terrific resources on foundation strategy — check them out!

Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a philanthropy expert and consultant. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

© Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2014.

Don’t Let Policy Get In The Way Of Good Practice

I’m working from my laptop in a Panera restaurant near Cleveland, Ohio, one of my many “offices away from home.” I’m desperately trying to focus on work but am continually distracted by the music piped in above my head, because the station they have turned it to is skipping. What is supposed to be relaxing symphonic sounds are quite irritating and painful to hear. I’ve asked two Panera employees what is wrong and suggested ways to solve the problem. Both agreed that it sounds horrible, explained that they “tried turning it off and on” and nothing happens. When I asked if they could simply turn it off, they said they weren’t able to.  Panera would rather play music that is skipping and irritating its customers than empower their employees to make decisions in the best interest of their customers because it’s their policy to play music.  I’m ready to leave and take my business elsewhere, but they don’t seem to care.

can't stand the noise!

Foundations do this too. I know of one foundation that has a policy that all staff must obtain proposals from three evaluators every time they want to conduct an evaluation. It doesn’t matter if the program officer has already worked with a fabulous evaluator who she knows will be great for this project, always delivers quality work, and is available to start immediately. She must waste her time and the time of two other evaluators in order to meet this policy requirement.

Think about how much staff time this involves: She has to identify and communicate with perhaps 5-10 other evaluators in order to identify 3-4 who are qualified, in hopes that 2 of them (plus the one she actually wants to hire) are interested, available and will submit proposals. She then has to talk with each of them long enough to explain her evaluation needs and answer their questions. Next she has to review their proposals and ultimately tell them that they are not being selected. Is this an example of a foundation being a good steward of its resources, or one that is wasting them? I’m pretty sure that this program officer has plenty of other more important things that she should be doing with her time.  (This doesn’t even take into account the time spent by the evaluators — not knowing they are doomed to fail — to learn about the foundation and project, talk with the program officer, write the proposal, and get their staffing and schedules in place so that they can start right away if chosen.).

Is it possible that by obtaining proposals from two other evaluators the program officer might find one who is even better, faster and cheaper? Sure. But I think organizations – foundations and restaurants alike – should empower their employees to make smart decisions that they feel will make the best use of their time and are in the best interests of their customers, grantees, and partners.  The goals are fine: provide a relaxing atmosphere for customers through music and find the best evaluator. But don’t create and enforce policies that result in poor customer service and waste time.

Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a philanthropy expert and consultant. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

© Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2013.

Announcing the Blog Team for the Communications Network Annual Conference

I’m thrilled to announce the Communications Network/Philanthropy411 Blog Team for the Communications Network Fall 2013 Annual Conference!  We’ll be blogging from New Orleans starting with the pre-conference sessions on Wednesday, October 2nd.  Follow along with the conference hashtag:  #comnetwork13 and follow @Com_Network and @Philanthropy411 for tweets about the conference and blog posts.

Here is your  Communications Network/Philanthropy411 Blog Team:

adcock1 Cynthia Dodd Adcock
Vice President, Communications and Marketing
Independent Sector
@cyndodd
Albert William Albert
Chief Program Officer
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
@balbert1
 Banse1 Liz Banse
Vice President
Resource Media
@LizBanse
 Brady Dan Brady
Communications Manager
Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
@givingforum
 Cino1 Jorge Cino
Creative Writer & Nonprofit Communications Specialist
@jorgecino
 Kate_emanuel1 Kate Emanuel
Senior Vice President, Nonprofit and Government Relations
Ad Council
@adcouncil
 Grier1 Maryland M. Grier
Senior Communications Officer
Connecticut Health Foundation
@marylandgrier
 Held1 Lucas Held
Director of Communications
The Wallace Foundation
@WallaceFdn
 Environmental portraits of the Skillman Foundation's staff at 100 Talon Centre Drive Detroit, MI 48207. Krista Jahnke
Communications Officer
The Skillman Foundation
@kristajahnke; @skillmanfound
 Erin_Kelly1 Erin M. Kelly, MA
Social Media Manager
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
@erinmkelly
Nicole Lampe Nicole Lampe
Head of Digital Team
Resource Media
@nicole_amber
 Rick_Landesberg1 Rick Landesberg
Principal
Landesberg Design
@LandesbergDesig
 LoriMcClung1 Lori McClung
President
Advocacy & Communication Solutions
@mclorius
 Bud_Meyer1 Bud Meyer
Author
Mother Fracker
@BudMeyer
 Eliz_Miller1 Elizabeth R. Miller
Communications Associate
Knight Foundation
@elzbthmllr
 Kris 1 jpg Kris Putnam-Walkerly
President
Putnam Community Investment Consulting
@philanthropy411
 Remaley_Michael Hamill Michael Hamill Remaley
Vice President of Communications & Public Policy
Philanthropy New York
@mahremaley; @PhilanthropyNY; @ppcnyc
 Paul VanDeCarrCrop Paul VanDeCarr
Managing Director and co-founder
Working Narratives
@wnstory
 Liz Wainger1 Liz Wainger
President
The Wainger Group
@lizwainger
 Weir1 Avalee Weir
Communications Manager
The Ian Potter Foundation
@AvWeir; @IanPotterFdn
 Norris_West1 Norris West
Director, Strategic Communications
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
@NorrisWest
 Akilah Williams2 Akilah Williams
Communications Officer
Crown Family Philanthropies
Chris Wolz2 Chris Wolz
President/CEO
Forum One Communications
@cwolz
 bill_wright2 Bill Wright
Vice President, Outreach and Advocacy
America’s Promise Alliance
@americaspromise; @APA_wright

5 Challenges in Promoting Opportunities for Young Men of Color

I’m attending the Gathering of Leaders conference in Detroit this week, which is focused on promoting opportunities for young men of color. It’s sponsored by an array of leading foundations including The California Endowment, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Knight Foundation, Skillman Foundation, WK Kellogg Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller FoundationOpen Society Foundations, The Heinz Endowments, Casey Family Programs.

Unlike many foundation-sponsored conferences, this one intentionally encouraged a mix of participants, including nonprofit and community leaders, policy makers, communications specialists, and researchers.

In the opening discussion, conference organizers Marcus Littles and Micah Gilmer of Frontline Solutions asked participants to identify challenges they are experiencing in their work to support and advance the lives of young men of color. I found it interesting that five of the questions and comments focused on concerns about and mistrust of philanthropy and even of nonprofit organizations in general.  All are legitimate questions and concerns—applicable to grantmaking on any issue or community, and I wanted to share them with you:

  1. Do funders and nonprofits have our best interests at heart? Communities are often asked to do work at the behest of foundations and nonprofits, and they aren’t always sure these organizations fully understand the communities’ needs or are truly working for their best interests.  Foundations and nonprofits must ensure that the people who will be impacted by their strategies and initiatives are represented in planning, framing, and development. Authentic community voices must be heard “so that we don’t inadvertently support white supremacy and racism.”
  2. What is the lens through which funders view their work supporting young men and boys of color? Most foundation staff and trustees bring different race and class perspectives and experiences than people living in low-income communities and communities of color.  We need to ensure that there is diversity in philanthropy at all levels– staff, executives, and board. The D5 Coalition is one example of an organized effort to encourage diversity in philanthropy.  Foundations can also get creative about additional ways to engage diverse perspectives. For example, the Saint Lukes Foundation in Cleveland has a community advisory board for each of its funding areas, comprised of people who live in the communities being served.
  3. Recognize that your funding, theories of change, and frameworks are unlikely to reverse the past 400 years of oppression and racism. One participant wanted to remind foundations that however well-intentioned, strategic, and evidence-based their grant programs are, and no matter how much money they want to give, they won’t reverse hundreds of years of institutionalized racism and the problems that have resulted. They also encouraged foundations to to “be a little looser with your results based accountability framework” and come into their communities with “open hearts and understanding” about the myriad ways that community members are already working to help young men of color that don’t neatly fit into these frameworks, but which will exponentially leverage philanthropic investments if funders would only see and appreciate them.
  4. Expand the pie and ensure that funding is not disproportionately spent on research, analysis, convenings, and yet more research.  One participant was concerned that it seems more funding is provided for research, evaluation, reports, analysis, and convenings than for grassroots organizations doing the work on the ground.   But rather than think about how to redivide the pie, let’s think about expanding the pie and increasing funding and political will to support young men of color.
  5. Stop “flavor of the month” grantmaking – Too often funding is tied to specific projects, making it difficult for nonprofits to plan, grow, and do their work effectively. Youth organizing was given as an example of a strategy that is critical for changing policies to support boys and young men of color, but it appears to be fading in interest and appeal from foundations.  Participants advocated that more foundations provide general operating support to nonprofits.

What do you think? What are your challenges in supporting young men and boys of color in your communities? In what ways does philanthropy inadvertently make it difficult for you to do your work, and what changes should be made?  Feel free to leave a comment!

Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a philanthropy expert and consultant. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

© Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2013.

34 Resources For Nonprofit Organizations

Yesterday I spoke with a group of LGBT nonprofit leaders from the Eastern European country of Georgia, including the Women’s Initiative Supporting Group and TANADGOMA, about nonprofit management, strategic planning, and the challenges of philanthropic funding of  marginalized communities, such as the women’s and LGBT communities of Georgia. The meeting was sponsored by the US State Department and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs.  This fantastic group of committed leaders spoke about tremendous challenges, including extreme homophobia and violent attacks on gay activists; lack of organized philanthropy or philanthropic support within Georgia; funders who only want to fund short-term projects and refuse to provide general operating support, multi-year grants, funding for needs assessments or research, or provide support for community empowerment efforts. One funder only allowed 1% of their budget to be allocated for overhead!

In preparation for my presentation I compiled a list of 34 resources for nonprofit organizations that I thought might help these leaders in their efforts to strengthen their organizations. I decided post them here too for other nonprofits and funders to use. If you think of other resources that would help LGBT nonprofit leaders in Georgia, please share them in the comments section and I will pass them along!

General

1. Foundation Center
The Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Offers many resources for nonprofits seeking philanthropic funding.

2. Stanford Social Innovation Review
The Stanford Social Innovation Review offers strategies, tools and ideas for nonprofits, foundations and socially responsible businesses.

3. Alliance for Nonprofit Management
A professional association of individuals and organizations devoted to improving the management and governance capacity of nonprofit organizations.

4. Compass Point
A nonprofit training, consulting, and research organization that provides nonprofits with the management tools, concepts, and strategies to increase their effectiveness and impact.

5. Independent Sector
Committed to promoting, strengthening, and advancing the nonprofit and philanthropic community to foster private initiative for the public good. It contains information on members, publications, annual conferences and events.

6. Nonprofit Finance Fund
NFF helps organizations connect money to mission effectively, and supports innovations such as growth capital campaigns, cross-sector economic recovery initiatives and impact investing.

7. BoardSource
BoardSource “is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations by strengthening their boards of directors.” A Q & A file on nonprofit boards is available.

8. The Nonprofit Times
Leading publication for nonprofit management

9. Tech Soup
TechSoup is a Web-based resource center that offers technology assistance and solutions for small to mid-size nonprofit organizations. The site offers nonprofit technology articles and news, and information on where to find donated or discounted software and equipment through its companion site, DiscounTech.

Strategic Planning and Collaboration

10. Foundation Center Nonprofit Collaboration Resources
Recommended resources on nonprofit collaboration.

11. LaPiana Consulting
A national consulting firm dedicated to strengthening nonprofits and foundations. Website includes resources on strategic planning and strategic restructuring.

12. National Council of Nonprofits’ Strategic and Business Planning for Nonprofits
The largest network of nonprofits in the United States. Provides a list of resources about strategic and business planning.

Core Support and Organizational Capacity Building

13. Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
A national network of foundations that promotes strategies and practices that contribute to grantee success. GEO has been a leader in encouraging foundations to provide core operating support, organizational capacity building support, funds for evaluation and learning, multi-year funding, and other practices that strengthen nonprofits and improve outcomes.

14. National Committee for Responsive Grantmaking
NCRP describes itself as the “country’s independent watchdog of foundations.” Its mission is to promote philanthropy that serves the public good, is responsive to people and communities with the least wealth and opportunity, and is held accountable to the highest standards of integrity and openness. In particular it has been a strong advocate of general operating support to nonprofits and recently produced a report The State of General Operating Support 2008-2010.

Evaluation

15. American Evaluation Association
International professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of program evaluation, personnel evaluation, technology, and many other forms of evaluation. Includes directories to local affiliates and consultants who are AEA members. Also visit the International and Cross Cultural Evaluation topical interest group http://comm.eval.org/icce/Home/

16. Innovation Network
Nonprofit evaluation, research, and consulting firm provides free planning and evaluation tools and a searchable database of evaluation and capacity building resources. Free registration required.

Communication

17. Communications Network
Supporting foundations and nonprofits to improve lives through the power of smart communications.

18. Nancy Schwartz & Company
Nonprofit marketing and communications consultant offering free resources, guides, articles and blogs about effective nonprofit communications.

19. Nonprofit Communications Resource Guide
Guide on nonprofit communications resources from CompassPoint and Lighthouse Collaborative.

Nonprofit Talent and Leadership Development

20. Generating Change Nonprofit Talent and Leadership Development Toolkit
Toolkit includes case studies, videos, a framing paper, blogs and other resources highlight different ways foundations support nonprofit talent and leadership development. Developed by Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and Putnam Community Investment Consulting, Inc.

LGBTQ Resources

21. Funders for LBGT Issues
Funders for LGBTQ Issues seeks to mobilize philanthropic resources that enhance the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, promote equity, and advance racial, economic and gender justice.

22. Horizons Foundation
A community foundation dedicated to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

23. Gill Foundation
National foundation that advocates for LGBT equality.

24. The Pipeline Project
The project’s goal is to increase the number of people of color working within the nation’s LGBT rights, service and advocacy sector, and ultimately increase the level of diversity in the leadership of our movement.

25. Human Rights Campaign
The largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

26. Transgender Law Center
Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.

Global Philanthropy

27. Council on Foundations’ Global Philanthropy Resources
The Council on Foundations is a national nonprofit association of more than 1,700 grantmaking foundations and corporations.

28. European Foundation Centre
An international membership association of foundations and corporate funders. Its mission is to strengthen the independent funding element of European philanthropy through robust cooperation with an array of partners.

29. Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support
WINGS is a global network of grantmaker associations and philanthropic support organisations.

30. WINGS Global Status Report on Community Foundations
Sixth in a series of reports on the development of community foundations around the world, and the first web-based version of this signature report.

31. International Human Rights Funders Group
A global network of donors and grantmakers committed to advancing human rights around the world through effective philanthropy.

32. EDGE Funders Alliance
Engaged donors for global equity.

33. Clinton Global Initiative
An initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges

34. Skoll World Forum on Social Entepreneurship
Provides relevant news, insight, and opportunities to accelerate entrepreneurial approaches and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social issues.

3 Questions To Ask When Evaluating Your Grantmaking Initiative

If your foundation is developing a new grantmaking program or initiative, it’s critical to concurrently develop plans for how you will evaluate success. But before jumping into methodologies and measurements, think about these three questions: What you want to know? Who needs to know it? and How will the findings  be used?  This will help you focus your evaluation design and scope.

Ÿ1 – What do you want to know? This should be based on your goals and objectives, and the impact you want to have. What are the three most critical things you want to learn? In five years when you look back on this effort, what information will give you confidence that you were successful? Keep in mind that different audiences will want to learn about different aspects of the project so understanding the key audiences for your evaluation findings and their needs will be critical.

2 – Who needs to know it? Your evaluation findings have many possible audiences, depending upon the scope of the project. This might include your board, your foundation management, board and management of other funders, grantees, key institutions in the field (e.g., educators, service providers), policymakers, practitioners, individuals and communities who are beneficiaries or who are impacted by this project, and the media.  It is helpful to identify your primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences, and involve them in evaluation planning. It is also useful to consider in advance how each audience prefers to receive evaluation information (e.g., does the board want a two-page summary with bullets, a presentation, or a comprehensive evaluation report?)

Ÿ3 – How will evaluation findings be used? When designing your evaluation, it helps to consider in advance how your foundation plans to use the findings. This will help you determine the evaluation scope and design, the type of products resulting from the evaluation, and the timing. It will also inform your communications plan. For example, will your initiative incorporate findings into a continuous learning process? Will your board make annual funding recommendations, requiring status reports and presentations at board meetings? How will negative evaluation findings be handled?

Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a philanthropy expert and consultant. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2013.

A Day After the Boston Bombing: Where is Philanthropy?

Update: A funders teleconference on the philanthropic response to the tragedy at the Boston Marathon will be held Thursday, April 18th at 10:30a ET, sponsored by Associated Grant Makers. Click here to register. You can also visit their Disaster Relief page for additional information and updates.

The bombings in Boston were senseless, evil and tremendously sad. Like everyone, my heart goes out to all affected, and it will likely be days, weeks and months before we comprehend the full impact of this tragedy. Because I consult in philanthropy and have written and given speeches about disaster-related grantmaking, I thought I could help in a small way by quickly passing along information via Twitter about how foundations are responding to this tragedy and ways people can help. I went to the websites of what I assumed would be my “go-to” sources of information: The Boston Foundation, Associated Grant Makers  (the regional association of grantmakers in Massachusetts) Council on Foundations, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the Center on Disaster Philanthropy.

To my surprise there was very little information listed, but I am passing along what I have learned and links to some of the helpful resources shared via Twitter.

The Boston Foundation’s home page lists memorial services and candlelight vigils in the Boston area during the coming days, and requests that people email them with any additional memorials. Their statement about this tragedy indicates “We continue to be in touch with state and local officials as well as other members of the nonprofit and philanthropic community, as we develop our immediate and longer-term efforts to support our community in this time of need.” I am sure we will learn more from them in the coming days and weeks, and recommend that anyone interested be sure to check their website and follow them on Twitter @Bostonfdn.

At the time of this writing, there was nothing about the Boston tragedy listed on the website of Associated Grant Makers, although they did have a tweet directing people to some very helpful resources I’ve cited below (You can follow them on Twitter at @AGMconnect). The Council on Foundations’ website included a short statement of sympathy but no additional information directing grantmakers or donors to resources, although they also shared useful information via Twitter (follow at @COF_). Similarly, there was nothing on the websites Chronicle of Philanthropy or the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Here are the resources I have found most helpful in my initial scan of websites and Twitter. Of course I welcome anyone to share additional and updated resources as a comment to this blog.

Other resources on general disaster preparedness grantmaking and grantmaking during times of disaster (not specific to Boston) can be found here:

I realize it’s not the responsibiltiy of any one foundation, organization, or association of grantmakers to be the real-time, go-to source of information about how to make donations during the time of a disaster. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to live and work in Boston today, and I am certain that there are many behind the scenes conference calls and emails flying across the country today among very smart, seasoned philanthropists and philanthropy professionals gathering information and seeking to develop a coordinated response (and I’m hopeful we will learn more soon). I also strongly believe that it is important for philanthropy to “do no harm” and take time to plan out a response. But I do feel that it would be tremendously helpful if foundations and grantmaking associations developed communications plans as part of their own disaster preparedness planing to immediately communicate with their constituents — grantmakers, philanthropists, donors, and everyday citizens who want to help — during and following a disaster.  Even if it is only, as the Boston Foundation has done, to let us know that they are working on it, to share initial resources, to request more information, and to stay tuned.