The idea that learning only occurs during an academic year has never really been true for me. When I was in junior high school – back in the dark ages – I became a voracious reader, visiting the local branch of the Columbus Public Library weekly. I’d walk the several blocks to the library, pick out a big stack of books and spend the summer days reading on the porch rather than sunning at the pool. Thus was born my love of Russian literature (yes, I read War and Peace one of those summers) and through reading I learned so much about different cultures, political systems and worldviews.
In high school, I took history or math classes during the summer so I could double up on language, vocal music (I sang alto) and orchestra (I played violin) classes and edit the high school newspaper during the regular school year.
I continue the year-round learning here at Philanthropy Ohio, and this summer I’m devoting time to learn more about a couple of topics.
First, racism in 21st century America. I’m taking time to watch an incredible set of speakers talking to Washington, D.C. grantmakers. Titled Putting Racism on the Table, the recorded talks cover a wide range of issues, including structural racism and implicit bias. Thanks to our colleague organization, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, for making the talks available to everyone. I’m also reading a couple of books: Dog Whistle Politics, by Ian Haney Lopez, a constitutional law professor at UC Berkley who has studied and written extensively on racism’s evolution in contemporary American society. I’m also dipping into Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum. The book explains the development of racial identity and frames the challenges in talking about race and racism.
Second, I’m learning more about collaboration – its best practices, challenges and opportunities. All three aspects of collaboration were part of a workshop we offered, our Three City Learning Tour that was led by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations staff and Chris Thompson from the Fund for our Economic Future with a keynote by Lisa S. Courtice (who was kind enough to let us post her remarks on last week’s blog). And, last week I was in Indianapolis at the Forum of Regional Associations’ Annual Conference where collaboration discussions included international presenters.
There are many opportunities to continue learning throughout the summer here at Philanthropy Ohio, culminating in our Learning Institute. The last two days of the summer – September 20 and 21 – will find us gathered on The Ohio State University campus for deep dives into a number of highly relevant topics for today’s grantmakers with a keynote and panel: The Equity Effectiveness Imperative. Check out the agenda and see which workshops will be most helpful in expanding your knowledge and skills. See you there.
Claudia Y.W. Herrold
This week Philanthropy Ohio welcomes guest blogger Lisa S. Courtice, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for The Columbus Foundation, sharing her expertise on collaborations.
Why is collaboration, or working with others to achieve something, important to Philanthropy?
Collaboration is important to philanthropy because the issues we help address are too big to tackle alone and because the risk factors of collaboration help keep us (professionals in philanthropy) real.
I believe that it is a privilege to work in philanthropy and to be charged with helping to tackle some of our community’s most pressing problems and to be effective, collaboration is essential. Even the largest philanthropists today are too small in relationship to the really serious problems that we have in central Ohio, let alone our country or world.
I will never forget hearing Melinda Gates speak at a conference in California. She talked about people thinking that the wealth of the Gates Foundation could solve big problems. She reminded us that the assets of the Gates Foundation, $40 billion…indeed, an enormous about of wealth, could not fund one year of operations for the California Public Schools.
For most of us, our ambitions and those of our respective organizations, outstrip our resources.
Collaboration has many benefits, one of the greatest being it helps to keep us real. I believe that those of us who work in philanthropy are at great risk of contracting the professional disease known as insularism. While we would like to say that we are truly effective in the pursuit of our work, there are increasing numbers of individuals questioning the role philanthropy plays and whether it is achieving its true potential. In the words of one grantee, “Foundations are like the building ledge on which nonprofit pigeons sit—not the wind under their wings that make them fly, but a helpful something, nevertheless.”
And yet, we are needed aren’t we? What would nonprofits do in our absence?
We sometimes fail to remember the most significant contributor to the sustainability of the nonprofit sector is indeed public funding, not philanthropy.
A number of foundations in northern California commissioned a market survey (involving interviews with grantees, government officials, and other stakeholders) to assess how foundations are viewed and what beneficial roles they are thought to play. Interestingly, the response to the survey was a complete absence of any positive assessment of the work of foundations.
Think about this statement. There are over 56,000 foundations in our country and the majority operate without staff and simply direct financial support to nonprofits. Yet the feedback from this survey was that the contributed values of these philanthropy players is at best NEUTRAL. This should give each of us reason to step back to think about the real value of our work.
For me, the most interesting findings from this study were the phrases most often used to describe foundation staff and board members. We might hope these words were efficient, helpful, supportive, or high value-added. But those foundations that underwrote the survey were surprised to find the terms to describe both them and their colleagues were: arrogant, heuristic, full of hubris, self-confident to the point of overpowering, and having a complete inability to listen.
People in philanthropy are used to being flattered and told just how critical their support is to the work of nonprofits. Despite this sense of valuable self-worth, there is the very real possibility that many of those we actually seek to support view us through a much different lens and experience our efforts at contributing to their work as little more than a necessary force to be tolerated.
We may be tempted to say this could possibly be true of other grantmakers, but certainly our own grantees would respond differently. And while we would all like to believe our work is of the highest value, in fact that actual perceptions of those who should know, our customers, could well be completely opposite from our own.
If we are to move towards greater effectiveness within philanthropy, we must first acknowledge that there is both the need and opportunity for improvement. One way to make a meaningful commitment to the pursuit of philanthropic effectiveness is to begin to re-vision the role of “grantmaker…….. to investment collaborator in community well-being.”
I suggest collaboration — collaborating with a variety of stakeholders in the development of our long-term investment strategies — helps to mitigate insularism.
When we seek to become consumer of ideas and experience from other players and other sectors. When we engage in dialogue with these stakeholders, our own strategies will be more realistically grounded in what is happening in the market as opposed to what we perceived to happening in the market. This will then give us a greater likelihood of being more effective in our work.
Our connecting with the field in a more direct manner facilitates a flattening of the hierarchies in knowledge sharing and in that way promises to enhance not only our own understanding of the challenges at hand, but also to participate in building this shared knowledge base.
Do we run the risk of projecting the image that we actually know what we are doing when, in point of fact, we may know less than we care to admit? The insular nature of the philanthropic community combined with the power dynamics, may lead us to overstate our knowledge regarding the right thing as well as our capacity to do it. Collaborating helps bring us back to reality.
Collaborations and collaborating is important for philanthropy because the help keep us real. They keep us real because they are risky.
Inherently, collaboration says something is happening outside of one’s immediate control. The various dynamics that make it risky include:
1. Not knowing the answer. The fundamental premise of collaboration is that you can use it to solve complex problems that are beyond the function of one domain or expertise. That means each participant needs to be comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity. Most people have built their careers — perhaps even their identity — on being the expert. Feeling ignorant is not a comfortable feeling.
2. Unclear or uncomfortable roles. Role and responsibilities in the collaboration space tend not to be hierarchical; they are often fluid, changing from phase to phase of the work. This can be especially hard for senior leaders, because it means being a team member, not the team leader.
3. Too much talking, not enough doing. Collaboration means a shift from thinking big ideas alone, and more into the real-time mess of problem solving with others. Shifting work from “I tell, they do” to a “We think together” approach will appear at first to be all about talking. But thinking together closes a gap.
4. Fear of fighting. Collaborating means dealing with conflicting priorities. “Turf” isn’t always clear. If you avoid conflict, or don’t know how to fight effectively, nothing will happen. Knowing how to debate the tradeoffs between many viable options means knowing how to argue with each other about the business in more open and visible ways. Not doing it well, or doing it wrong — or simply losing? Very risky.
5. More work. Collaboration happens on top of other work. Participants are already plenty busy with their “day job” and the new project may be especially stressful because of this. Until the problems that any collaboration project is aimed to fix gets solved, a collaboration project can often be overwhelming. Most people describe collaboration with rose colored glasses: If they would just collaborate, then they would do better! But collaboration is about the friction of ideas and the forging of new ways of working. That is not easy. And it makes new demands on all of us.
6. It’s hard to know who to praise and who to blame. Collaborative projects are judged on the outcome, more than the individual efforts than went into them. Leaders have less visibility into who did what. If things go right, they worry about rewarding the wrong people. If things go wrong, they complain about no longer having a single point of accountability.
Collaborating…working with others to develop strategies, to align resources…is essential to be the most effective grantmaker possible. Navigating these risk factors makes us vulnerable and helps to keep us real. And collaboration increases the likelihood that we develop greater effectiveness not at doing what think is right from an insulated perch, but doing what we have experienced and learned together is right.
Lisa S. Courtice
My mother-in-law always said that, for her, the July 4th holiday marked the beginning of the end of summer. I, on the other hand, have always looked at it as the real beginning of the summer. When I had young children, it seemed like the summer of lighter bedtime routines (no making lunches, homework help, Scouts, ballet and lacrosse), catching fireflies, pool time and trips to the library was just starting after the 4th. Now, unless the grandkids are over, summer finds me reading a book on the screened porch glider, listening to the birds settle for the evening, with June bugs hitting against the screens and our cat watching chipmunks run along the fence top. It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy Ohio’s weather.
While evenings and weekends may see a slower pace at home, the work week here at Philanthropy Ohio is going full steam.
Last week saw staff traveling the 3-C cities with Chris Thompson and GEO staff in tow, engaging funders in deep discussions and learning about how to increase impact through collaboration. I sat in on the Columbus event, gleaning a few phrases that will stick with me:
You’ll get it wrong before you get it right.
Collaboration moves at the speed of trust.
The evil twin of collaboration is coblabberation (you know, those meetings that are all talk and no action, in Groundhog Day movie fashion, over and over).
We also just published the summer edition of our magazine, Philanthropy Review, and are gearing up research efforts for community foundations, our annual Ohio Gives report and a salary survey that informs the report we’ll publish in the fall.
And, we are putting the final touches on this year’s statewide convening, the Learning Institute, which is set for September 20 – 21 here in Columbus. The planning committee has thoughtfully created an agenda that is packed with deep dives into the hottest topics in philanthropy, bringing in speakers from across the country to lead learning sessions and making time for networking. You can read more about the agenda and register online.
These are just a few highlights of this summer’s work, all of which is aimed at helping those engaged in philanthropy become more powerful, effective change agents in Ohio’s communities. I hope you’ll take time to find the right work-life balance, engaging in some of our events while taking time to enjoy the summer!
Claudia Y.W. Herrold
All of us here at Philanthropy Ohio are horrified and heartbroken over the June 12 tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, when a gunman killed 49 people at the gay nightclub. In the intervening week, we’ve seen the nation come together in mourning and in efforts to help those traumatized by the killing of so many young people. Many regional associations, guided by information first compiled by our colleague organization, Florida Philanthropic Network, have distributed information on how individuals and philanthropic organizations can help the victims and their families during the days and weeks to come. And the country has responded: about $4 million has been collected by the OneOrlando Fund (as of June 17), including a $50,000 donation by Philanthropy Ohio member KeyBank.
Some of the ways to help include:
Central Florida Foundation will be sharing updates on how you can help now and in the weeks and months to come.
Our Fund Foundation, a community foundation whose mission is to support South Florida’s LGBTQ agencies, is collecting tax-deductible donations. 100% of the tax-deductible funds raised through Our Fund will be donated to the nonprofits in Orlando supporting survivors and victims’ families and friends and their efforts to restore peace, joy and wellness to Orlando’s LGBTQ community.
Governor Rick Scott announced the activation of the Florida Disaster Fund, which will help provide financial support to organizations that serve survivors, their families and all those in need.
Funders for LGBTQ has additional resources for funders here.
At such a difficult time, as we struggle to deal with the loss of life, talking with our families, friends and co-workers about this horrific, hateful act, a colleague reminded me of Nelson Mandela’s famous words, that “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” May we all demonstrate our courage every day.
Claudia Y.W. Herrold
We’ve just opened nominations for four awards recognizing Ohio philanthropists, either individuals or organizations doing outstanding work in their communities. You have until August 1 to submit nomination forms, which are available for download at philanthropyohio.org/awards. The Board of Trustees (whose members aren’t eligible for any of the awards) will review the nominations and make their selections in time for presentation on September 21 during the Learning Institute we’re holding in Columbus.
The awards are:
The Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy
This is the second year for the Shinn Award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated a significant commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in his/her philanthropic practice in Ohio. Michael G. 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 the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, taking on primary responsibility for guiding Philanthropy Ohio’s efforts in that arena.
Ohio Philanthropy Award
This is our life-time achievement award, which we’ve given since 2004. It 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.
Philanthropy Innovation Award
We created this award a few years ago to recognize 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
The award celebrates someone who has engaged in philanthropic work for the first time during the last few years, either in a career path or as a private individual, and shows amazing potential for future leadership.
A colleague asked about my Memorial Day weekend and I responded by saying it lasted about 20 minutes. Later I realized that with the beginning of June, the year is nearly halfway over and I’ve not completed half of my list of “to do’s” 2016. Is it just me or is time speeding up? Could it be that we are living in a “time warp?”
Claudia Hammond thinks we are. In fact, she explores the mystery of our perception of time in her book, Time Warped. Using the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience and biology, Hammond endeavors to answer the following questions:
“Why does life seem to speed up as we get older? Why does the clock in your head move at a different speed from the one on the wall? Why is it almost impossible to go a whole day without checking your watch? Is it possible to retrain our brains and improve our relationship with it?”
An example of one of these questions about time-warping is what Hammond calls the Holiday Paradox: “the contradictory feeling that a good holiday whizzes by, yet feels long when you look back.” Often, the Holiday Paradox has at its core the quality and concentration of new experiences, especially in contrast to our daily routines.
During my work week, time seems “normal” – a relative term to be sure – and generally there is a rhythm. But when on vacation, or even over the weekend, there are new sights, sounds and experiences that create a warped perception of time because it lacks rhythm.
Another example of time changing, and in fact slowing down, happens when we are gripped by a mortal fear. Hammond illustrates this point by citing a study that asks people who are terrified of spiders to look at spiders for at least 45 seconds. These arachnophobic people, in every case, overestimated how long they viewed the spiders, which was shorter than 45 seconds, but they felt that it was longer.
Inversely, as we grow older or “more seasoned,” time changes again and seems to speed up. There are many theories as to why we feel this way. Perhaps it’s that the tempo of life in general has accelerated or perhaps we view life through our age lens. Hammond says, “It is as though time has been compressed and – as if looking through a telescope – things seem closer than they are. The opposite is called backward or reverse telescoping – also known as time expansion…. “
Time Warped certainly increased my understanding of how our internal clocks dictate our lives and productivity. But perhaps more importantly, time has an impact on memory and it is memory that creates and shapes our experiences of time.
However, the question for me still remains. How can I make my weekends and vacation days last longer?
Suzanne T. Allen