Tag Archives: strategy

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.

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.