Sound analysis + grounded assumptions + appropriate assessments yields high performance

headshot of suzanne allenI keep three stacks of reading materials. One stack is “leisure reading,” another is “need to read” and the last is “must read this week.” Somehow, a document titled The Performance Imperative landed in leisure reading, when it should have been in a stack all by itself – “read now!”

Here’s a bit of background.

 “The Performance Imperative: A Framework for Social Sector Excellence is the result of a year’s worth of collaborative work by the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community. If Leap of Reason rings a bell, you’ll remember this as the title of a book by Mario Marino in which he made the case for outcomes-based management in the nonprofit world and used this work to issue a call to action for leaders in the field.

mario marino

Mario Morino is chairman of the Morino Institute and co-founder and founding chair of Venture Philanthropy Partners.

Now back to the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community. This is a group of nonprofit leaders selected and organized by the Leap of Reason team ( to:

  • “Inspire, motivate and support nonprofit and public sector leaders (and their stakeholders) to build great organizations for greater societal impact; and
  • “Increase the expectation and adoption of high performance and the path toward that end.”

the performance imperative 7 pillarsThis group worked together to craft a definition of “high-performance organizations” and determined that “high performance is the ability to deliver – over a prolonged period of time – meaningful, measurable and financially sustainable results for people or causes the organization is in existence to serve.” They also developed seven organizational pillars that can and should be used by nonprofit boards, nonprofit executives, funders and public agencies, professors, management and evaluation consultants and websites for nonprofit ratings and information. In short, anyone who worked with or around the nonprofit world should pay attention to these seven pillars, which are:

  • Courageous, adaptive executive and board leadership (the most important pillar)performance-imperative
  • Disciplined, people-focused management
  • Well-designed and well-implemented programs and strategies
  • Financial health and sustainability
  • A culture that values learning
  • Internal monitoring for continuous improvement
  • External evaluation for mission effectiveness

So why am I asking my staff to move this to their “read now!” stack? Because as Jim Collins said, “Good is the enemy of great,” and high-performance matters. Sure, enthusiasm and vision are important but a formula of sound analysis + grounded assumptions + appropriate assessments yields a high-performance model that nonprofits and their leaders can use to remain relevant and grow their people and organizations.

In upcoming blogs, we’ll look at the pillars more closely and share some great work of our Ohio colleagues.

You can download the full report here.

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

July 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

3 good reads for your summer vacation

headshot of claudiaIn between rain downpours and mere summer showers, many of us are getting ready for a brief respite someplace sunnier and warmer than this year’s Ohio summer. Whether you’re looking forward to hanging out at home, going to a favorite beach, lake or mountain venue, if you’re like me you’re looking for some good reading material to take along on your week off. If we lived in Europe, we’d have the whole month of August for holiday and could read them all. But since few of us can take that much time away, consider tucking one of these good reads into your travel bag as you head off.happiness adv book

The Happiness Advantage
Psychologist Shawn Achor writes in accessible, non-jargon language about how we’ve got it all backwards – we think we should work to be happy – and then lays out a path for how to take control of our own happiness and lead productive lives. This was one of two books the Philanthropy Ohio staff read this past spring. Watch his great TED talk, and then pick up the book.

dream land bookDreamland: the True Tale of America’s Opiate Addiction
Former LA Times reporter Sam Quinones traces the historical roots of the epidemic that threatens the health of thousands of people and their communities and reveals a frightening picture of how heroin has become so pervasive across America. His thoughtful research reaches into Columbus and southeastern Ohio, showing how Mexican heroin has permeated urban, suburban and rural areas without regard to income, race or gender.

Strategic Philanthropy and its Discontents
Paul Brest is a recognized deep thinker in philanthropy, having led the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and now as Professor Emeritus and Co-Director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. In his essay (complete with footnotes), Brest takes on the difficult tasks of untangling the various definitions of “strategic philanthropy” and then turns to a discussion of its practices, particularly as they relate to relationships between funders and grantees. It was written for a symposium of people gathered from the U.S. and Europe at Stanford University to discuss strategic philanthropy and is shared on the Stanford Social Innovation Review website.

paul brest

Happy reading,

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold


July 21, 2015 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

Diversity Explosion

headshot of claudiaWhen Philanthropy Ohio adopted Diversity Principles and created a board-level Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, it signaled its strong intent to help Ohio funders understand the importance of paying attention to diversity defined very broadly. We created a CEO Leadership Circle where foundation leaders learned from each other about the practices and policies that could diversify their staff and boards, grantees and vendors. We were also a founding member of D5, a national project that engages philanthropic organizations in work to grow their diversity, equity and inclusion. D5 has extensive resources on its site, from reports on the diversity of the philanthropic sector to research and tools to advance DEI.

As part of our ongoing work, we invited Robert Jaquay, associate director at The George Gund Foundation, to review Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America by William H. Frey. The book explains the coming racial diversity in Ohio and the nation, important information that Bob summarizes in this review.

Diversity Explosion bookFast-paced demographic change will dramatically alter American life, according to Diversity Explosion, a new book by widely-respected demographer William Frey. By 2040 – possibly sooner – no racial group will constitute a majority in the U.S. Further, as multiracial marriages become far more commonplace, a significant portion of the American populace will no longer identify with any specific racial group.

William Frey, a University of Michigan Professor and Fellow at the Brookings Institution, recognizes that the massive Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964) has exerted political and economic clout to shape America in fundamental ways: the evolving role of women and increased suburbanization are but two powerful examples. Yet, due to low immigration, reduced fertility and aging among the predominantly white Boomers, Frey projects that America’s white population will begin to decline in the next 10 years.

Conversely, within the cohort of newborn Americans, 2011 was a very significant year in that for the first time in the history of the country, more minority babies were born than white babies. This is a trend that William Frey sees accelerating in the years to come. Indeed, over the next 40 years, Hispanics, Asians and multi-racial populations in the U.S. are each projected to more than double. As this newest cohort forms and ages, increased racial diversity now noticeable in maternity wards will become apparent in American schools. In turn, the workplace, consumer markets, media, politics and every other aspect of American life will be increasingly diverse.

Robert Jaquay, associate director at The George Gund Foundation

Robert Jaquay, associate director at The George Gund Foundation

Dr. Frey also projects that diversity will spread geographically across the country. He notes that in 1990 only five of the 100 largest metropolitan areas were minority white, all in the south and southwest. By the 2010 census, there were 22. The next census will likely document a continuation of the diversity spread, increasingly toward the north and east.

Numerous references to specific racial group demographic shifts occurring in Columbus and Cleveland appear in the book in context of discussing national trends. Additionally, our state and its counties are depicted in the dozens of maps and charts spread throughout the book. Nonetheless, how the Diversity Explosion will play out in Ohio in the years to come is not entirely clear.

Obviously, Dr. Frey’s book is focused upon race. It is important to note that other characteristics and classes such as gender identity/expression, disability, sexual orientation and veteran status are not the focus of Diversity Explosion.

Nevertheless, despite these limitations, those engaged in Philanthropy Ohio’s vital discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion will find Diversity Explosion to be essential reading. This book prompts necessary questions to constructive discourse in Ohio. Such questions include:

  • Is our definition of diversity sufficiently expansive?
  • In discussing inclusion, are we considering community demographics with a sufficiently long-range view of, say 10, or even 25 years?
  • How do urban neighborhoods, suburbs and rural communities of Ohio properly fit in the conversation?
  • How can we build neighborhoods that allow for real interaction among people of differing age, race and class?

Good ideas in the making

Diversity Explosion also seems to match the spirit of Philanthropy Ohio’s discernment on questions of race and class that are so important to our institutions and the Ohio communities we serve. William Frey writes so that his readers can “appreciate the sheer magnitude of change being wrought by America’s new racial minorities and be prepared to embrace it.”

Happy reading,

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

July 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

Registration opens for the best learning and networking event

headshot of claudiaPhilanthropy is shifting, applying new perspectives and bold ideas, partnering in Collective Impact, focusing on the next generation and shaping public policy for systems change.

PHILANTHROPY FORWARD ’15 showcases all this and more in the year’s most important learning and networking event for Ohio funders. Here are just a few examples of what the conference offers to Ohio funders heading to Cincinnati on September 16 for three days of intense learning and connecting.

National thought leaders will challenge you to think and act differently.
plenary speaker headshotsExperts in the field will build your skills and knowledge.

GEO’s Heather Peeler leads a Smarter Grantmaking course

Michelle L. Janssen, CFRE, presents a Donor Development Deep Dive

Erin Skene-Pratt teaches a session on Public Policy Nuts & Bolts

Mark J. Rogers and Gary W. Jbara give a Financial Market Outlook

Over 25 break-out sessions address your daily challenges, covering topics that include board governance, investing, managing collaborations, racial equity, gender issues, college completion, criminal justice reform: the list goes on and on, with something for everyone at every level of experience.

Networking galore will connect you with colleagues.

A group of four German Oktoberfest fansMeet up during designated networking breaks, dine-arounds and the Welcome Party, a lively celebration featuring the rich German heritage of southwest Ohio, complete with music, food and beverages.

Learning tours will highlight Cincinnati projects.

Visit a school-based health and dental center to see how funders collaborated to make a difference in the lives of Cincinnati’s children and teens or explore People’s Liberty, an 8,000 square foot philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate positive community transformation.

Philanthropy Forward brochure coverWhether you’re new to philanthropy or have years of experience, we guarantee you’ll build your knowledge and network at this year’s conference. Check out the agenda, book your hotel room and register today!

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

July 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

Re-construct philanthropy for greater impact

headshot of claudiaPaul Shoemaker, executive connector at Social Venture Partners (SVP) in Seattle, recently published an essay exhorting funders to “fundamentally change the underlying practices we use to construct our philanthropy.” He has five philanthropic practices that – when used together – can help funders “make quantum leaps in achieving greater impact” in their communities. These practices are:

  1. Provide 100% unrestricted grants
  2. Fund long-term, at least over 10 years
  3. Connect to peers as the rule, not the exception
  4. Build strong boards
  5. Listen to customers much more closely
Paul Shoemaker, executive connector at Social Venture Partners Seattle

Paul Shoemaker, executive connector at Social Venture Partners Seattle

Paul has worked for more than 17 years as a funder and at SVP, so his insights are gleaned from on-the-ground experience as well as thoughtful analysis of results from those years. He is the founding president of Social Venture Partners International, has served on numerous nonprofit boards since leaving Microsoft in 1998 for SVP Seattle. I interviewed Paul to find out more about his essay and the practices. Read the full essay.

Q: What prompted you to write the essay?

A: Having spent 17 years in the sector and SVP’s work and the way that we do it with nonprofits, I was able to see the ramifications of funding first-hand, so that accumulation of experiences led me to write the essay. And, I think the other part of that is I feel so strongly about the practices, particularly the first thing I mentioned in regards to funding, my call for unrestricted grants. So, it’s a combination of both long-time experience and perspectives on funding and I decided to shove it all together into one document.

Q: How long did it take you to write this essay?

A: I should say probably 3 – 4 months. I got input from lots of people. No one agrees with everything but everybody agrees with some part of it. I got people to send input of what I wrote and then I thought about their reactions. I was certainly trying to write a personal point of view and have a voice, and be willing to put an opinion out there but I also wanted it to be well- rounded and have some other ideas in it.

image of essayQ: You said that funding was sort of the flashpoint for you, but how did you come to identify these five critical practices?

A: Like I said, the first practice was sort of always the flag I waved while the rest were from accumulated experiences and from talking to all those other folks. I had a lot longer list, but you can’t just throw the kitchen sink at it. I had hunch about a lot of things and used the conversations that I had with people who were helping me to prioritize and focus on what really mattered the most. So I sort of had a menu, and those folks helped me pick the things that mattered the most from the menu.

Q: Providing unrestricted funding is not the same thing as building capacity, which you didn’t include; why not?

A: Capacity building has been a part of our DNA for a long time. I guess what I would say is, I feel like capacity building is not really in the same category as these five things. The thing about building strong boards is sort of like the pear and the rest are the oranges. Capacity is like a different level of concept. And honestly, if you did those five things, that would go a long, long way to building a strong organization. So, capacity building is sort of inherent within those five things.

I tried to be clear that I didn’t mean that “unrestricted” (funding) meant “unaccountable.” I didn’t mean you throw money over the wall and burn it. They have to be accountable. There are some things nonprofits need to get better at if they want that kind of funding. But, that being said, I was trying to write a letter early on to funders, so for the purpose of this one essay, I wasn’t really writing for nonprofits. If they get it, great! But I was really writing for funders. I wasn’t trying to suggest practices for nonprofits. That would be a different paper—someday.


Let’s talk, philanthropy.

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

June 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Charitable giving reaches pre-recession peak

headshot of suzanne allenThe headline from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy newsletter, “Giving USA: Americans Donated an Estimated $358.38 Billion to Charity in 2014; Highest Total in Report’s 60-year History,” is great news for our sector. Similar headlines in the Huffington Post, the New York Times and CNN reinforce the fact that Americans are very generous.

A report released this week by the Giving USA Foundation reports that Americans gave $358.38 billion to charity in 2014. That total just exceeds the last peak in 2007, when Americans donated $355.17 billion to nonprofits and is an all-time high since the Giving USA Foundation began its research 60 years ago.

giving usa coverHere’s a breakdown of the 2014 charitable giving from the report:

  • Individual giving, $258.51 billion, increased 5.7 percent over 2013 and represented 72 percent of the total giving;
  • Foundation giving, $53.97 billion, was 8.2 percent higher than 2013 and represents 15 percent of total giving;
  • Corporations contributed 5 percent of the total, giving $17.77 billion, an increase of 13.7 percent; and
  • Bequests, which represent 8 percent of all gifts, increased 15.5 percent.

The question many of us ask is why? Why did the growth happen?

Laura MacDonald, chair of the Giving USA editorial review board and founder of Columbus-based nonprofit consulting firm Benefactor Group, identified some of the factors behind this growth, including the rise of tech donors and “mega-gifts” that accounted for one-third of the growth in individual giving. And, while corporate donations continue to languish at less than 1 percent of pretax profit, individual giving rose to 2.1 percent of GDP, a height not seen since prior to the 2008 recession.

Benefactor Group Giving USA infograhic

Giving USA 2105: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Researched and written by Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Sponsored by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute.

She observed, “Almost every sector benefitted from the growth in giving, from religion to arts, from education to human service. While American donors’ interests may be diverse, it appears that our generosity is a shared value.”

But there might be another reason. Perhaps not only are donors able to be more generous, I think the charities are working harder and smarter, making sure their cases for support are sound and relevant. Grantmakers and nonprofits are finding a way to have meaningful conversations and are using new communication and evaluation tools.

give stampLucy Bernholz, one of my favorite writers in the philanthropy field, catches “Buzz Words” in action. A few she predicted in 2013 have certainly had an effect on how and why Americans give and may offer more insight into our “why” question. Could it be that we are using these Buzz Words concepts to make our field stronger?

Here’s the list – you decide:

  • Social Impact Bond
  • Collective Impact
  • Storytelling
  • Charitable Tax Reform
  • Infographics
  • Evidence-based
  • Shapeshifting
  • Disruption
  • Amplify
  • #

I’d love to know what you think! And watch for our own report on the state of charitable giving in Ohio, due out this fall.

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

June 22, 2015 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment

Who will you nominate?

headshot of claudiaWe’re accepting nominations for our annual awards recognizing phenomenal Ohio philanthropists, including a new one created this year to recognize a board member who passed away in March.

mike shinn headshot

Mr. Michael G. Shinn

We are very excited about this new award, The Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy, which honors Mr. Shinn’s dedication to this important work in modern-day America. The award will recognize an individual who has demonstrated a significant commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in his/her philanthropic practice in Ohio.

Mr. Shinn was the founder of the Shinn Family Foundation and served as secretary of Philanthropy Ohio’s Board of Trustees until his death in March 2015. He chaired our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, taking on primary responsibility for guiding Philanthropy Ohio’s efforts in that arena. The Philanthropy Ohio Board of Trustees created the award to honor his memory and will present it for the first time this year.

Denise San Antonio Zeman won the Ohio Philanthropy Award in 2014. She is the retired president/CEO of Saint  Luke's Foundation.

Denise San Antonio Zeman won the Ohio Philanthropy Award in 2014. She is the retired president/CEO of Saint Luke’s Foundation.

We are also accepting nominations for three other awards. First is the Ohio Philanthropy Award, which honors an organization or individual who has made outstanding contributions to philanthropy by demonstrating long-standing leadership in advancing philanthropy, creativity in responding to societal problems or a significant positive impact on philanthropy.

Shiloh Turner won the Innovation Award in 2014. She is The Greater Cincinnati Foundation vice president of community investment.

Shiloh Turner won the Innovation Award in 2014. She is The Greater Cincinnati Foundation vice president of community investment.

The Philanthropy Innovation Award recognizes someone who has moved Ohio philanthropy forward through an innovation or implemented an idea that led to positive change in how the philanthropic sector operates, thinks or impacts communities. The Emerging Philanthropist Award celebrates someone who – regardless of age – has engaged in philanthropy for the first time during the last few years, either in a career path or as a private individual, and shows amazing potential.

Andrea Timan won the Emerging Philanthropist  Award in 2014. She serves on United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Young Leaders Cabinet.

Andrea Timan won the Emerging Philanthropist
Award in 2014. She serves on United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Young Leaders Cabinet.

Nominations close August 3 so that the Board of Trustees can make selections in time for the award ceremonies scheduled for September 16 – 18 in Cincinnati during our Philanthropy Forward ’15 conference.

Check out the criteria and submission rules and decide who you’ll nominate.

Call us at 614.224.1344 if you have questions and stay tuned for announcements about the winners!

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

June 2, 2015 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

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