Posts filed under ‘Management’

Good grantmaking and good intentions

Heather-Peeler-headshotPhilanthropy Ohio is pleased to welcome Heather Peeler, vice president of member and partner engagement at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, as our guest blogger this week. You’ll have a chance to meet and learn from Heather at the Philanthropy Forward ’15 conference, where she’s leading two sessions to help increase your effectiveness as a grantmaker.

Now that summer is in full swing, I convinced my husband that we should have an informal backyard barbecue with some good friends. Given busy schedules, I wanted to host a casual gathering where everyone could relax and enjoy one another’s company.

plate of food at BBQHowever, if you had seen me the days before and after the event, you would have thought I was planning something for the Queen of England, not a casual party with friends. There was extensive menu planning (simple burgers and dogs wouldn’t do), a signature cocktail and an excursion to the home goods store for fancy patio lights and new planters. I was so stressed by my “casual” barbecue, that I’m not even sure if anyone actually had a fun and relaxing time. I certainly didn’t.

This is a perfect example of how our intentions and our behaviors are often out of alignment. It happens in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. And sadly it happens in grantmaking, too. As grantmakers, we have the best of intentions to collaborate with others, help our grantees become stronger and to learn from our failures and mistakes. Yet our behaviors and practices often get in the way of making those intentions a reality.

GEO-LogoGrantmakers for Effective Organizations has long studied the types of grantmaker practices that support grantee success. We know that nonprofit resilience is based on the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and that restricted funding hamstrings this flexibility. We know that evaluation provides a powerful way to garner insights into what’s working and why, but few grantmakers share evaluation results with grantees and others who can benefit. We know that collaborative efforts to pool resources and align strategies can yield faster progress, yet we struggle to give up control and let go of our unique ways of doing business. Finally, we know that we make better decisions when we engage with the community and deepen our understanding, but we struggle to prioritize the time that’s needed to build relationships.

If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone. GEO’s recent field study of more than 600 foundations found that 93 percent of respondents think it is important or very important to provide support that will strengthen grantee organizations, yet 45 percent rarely or never support capacity-building activities. Eighty-one percent provide some level of general operating support, but most dedicate only 25 percent or less of their grantmaking budgets to it.

taking notes at meetingOver the years of working with grantmakers to help boost their and their grantees effectiveness, we’ve come to realize that knowledge of effective practice is not enough. Many smarter grantmaking practices are easier said than done. One doesn’t become a master collaborator or learning organization overnight. As part of the process, we should give careful consideration to our practices as well as our values. In particular, reflecting on current culture and values and how they align with practice can yield insights about why our organizations may not be making the progress we desire.

We have discovered many great ways that GEO members are shaping productive cultures through their actions, big and small. Here are a few that stuck with me:

  • The Cleveland Foundation nurtures a culture of learning by hosting “Fred Talks” (named after its founder) to better connect and learn with members of the community. The grantmaker convenes residents and community leaders for in-depth conversations in order to tap ideas about how the grantmaker can best pursue its mission. You can read more in Learning Together.
  • symphony concertIn GEO’s Smarter Grantmaking Playbook, we highlighted the work of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and its commitment to strengthening the arts sector in Cleveland. It has made general operating support a key part of its strategy. By devoting a large proportion of its grantmaking to flexible support, the grantmaker has seen its grantees grow sustainably and have a larger impact in the communities they serve.
  • Jim Canales, one of GEO’s founders and the CEO of the Barr Foundation, talks about how important it is to mind the small things – like making sure program officers keep their phones tucked away when they are meeting with grantees or others in the community as a sign of respect.

Our desire for strong and effective grantees is within our reach. To achieve it, we must build our knowledge about and practice smarter grantmaking. And, we must give careful consideration to where our values, intentions and practice diverge.

I’m looking forward to my time in Ohio next month, hope to see you there!

Heather Peeler

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August 3, 2015 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

5 practices to change philanthropy from the outside-in

headshot of claudiaPaul Shoemaker, executive connector at Social Venture Partners (SVP) Seattle, shared insights gleaned from 17 years of working in philanthropy in a recent essay titled Re-Constructing Philanthropy from the Outside-In.

In line with SVP’s “philanthropic architecture,” Paul approaches his re-construction argument from the broad context of using human, social and financial capital to help nonprofits build capacity and achieve significant change.

empire state buildingThe basic re-construction that philanthropy needs is akin to the fundamental changes contractors made when building the Empire State Building, one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

For about 40 years, it was the world’s tallest building, and, standing 102 floors above Manhattan streets, the first to have more than 100 floors. Completed in 1931 (adapting the design that had been used to build the Carew Tower in Cincinnati), the building was an incredible breakthrough in many ways, including in the practices invented to construct sections of it offsite and then place them on Fifth Avenue.

block quote A similar breakthrough is needed in philanthropy and comes, Paul suggests, through implementing a set of five practices. These practices, he admits, are both familiar and already used by some funders. Alone, they are incrementally helpful: it’s putting them all into practice together that will bring about change from the outside-in.

The five practices are:

  1. Give unrestricted grants: calling funds that are limited as to purpose or time Quite Damaging Dollars (QDDs), Paul says that funders should instead provide 100 percent unrestricted funding to grantees.
  2. Fund long-term: and he doesn’t mean fund for two or three years; the timeframe for investment should be at least 10 years.
  3. Connect with peers: instead of acting collectively as the exceptional practice, make it the norm; philanthropy needs sustained relationships among funders to be a core practice.
  4. Build great boards: foundation boards, he says, must “impose excellence” upon themselves, acting more as stewards and less as overseers.staff meeting with papers and coffee mugs
  5. Listen to beneficiaries: funders can’t “fix communities” without having the recipients of services be participants, so they need to re-frame how they engage in communities to co-create programs and services.

What do you think? How do these ideas resonate with you? Use the comment box to continue the discussion.

Best,

claudia signature

Claudia Y. W. Herrold

April 13, 2015 at 3:47 pm 1 comment

All motivation is self-motivation

headshot of suzanne allenI’m a Tom Peters fan, and have been since that day in 1982 when a graduate school professor assigned his new, best-selling book (In Search of Excellence) as required reading. I’ve since read all his books, disagreed with several, listened to him speak (and rant) in person and on cassette tape and subscribed to his weekly email blast.

His picture even sat on my desk, until a custodian refused to empty the trash can in my office. The custodian saw me with my husband, and assumed that I was being unfaithful to the man on my desk.

A recent email blast was particularly poignant. In it, Tom reminded me to “Never forget when exhorting your troops: ALL MOTIVATION IS SELF-MOTIVATION. PERIOD. (Boss ‘just’ creates platform, offers encouragement.)”

tom peters and book cover“All motivation is self-motivation.” That’s a powerful statement, and although I hadn’t quite looked at it through that lens, it is so very true. And while there are great books and articles that you and I have read, written by creative and highly educated folks that promise you can “Motivate Your Employees in 10 Steps with Pictures” or “Motivate Employees in Less Than 5 Minutes,” there’s more to it.

It is about self-motivation – not ten steps with pictures – and the more I think about Tom’s quote, the more I realize that he’s right again. It’s about believing viscerally in what we do and what we value that is motivating. I see this around the state in the offices, towns and cities of our members. In fact, in a recent lunch meeting a foundation president and I had a hard time having a conversation because so many people stopped to say hello and ask about some project the foundation is involved in.

In a tour of another foundation’s office, it was clear from the front door that the foundation cared about its employees and its grantees. There were pictures everywhere and the tour included explanations of many. The staff had pride in their work, a platform created by their leader (Tom calls this the “smell test” of organizational culture).

8 lessons in search of excellenceTo quote from his 1982 book, “Our excellent companies appear to do their way into strategies, not vice versa. ‘Doing’ things (lots of experiments, tries) leads to rapid and effective learning, adaption, diffusion and commitment; it is the hallmark of the well-run company.”

So many, many of you around the state are “doing” great things and are examples of self-motivating platform- builders. You know what this intuitive thing is and that it’s the feeling we get when we are doing the right thing and are doing it for the right reasons at just the right time.

That’s the sweet spot for a leader, and if you’ve ever hit a tennis ball in the sweet spot on your racquet, or hit a golf ball in the sweet spot on your driver (the only sports I’ve ever played) you understand this – when you are motivated, that motivation radiates and builds the platform for encouragement. I could go on, but I want to hear from you. How do you motivate yourself so that you can be motivational?

Stay tuned, I’m expecting great responses!

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

March 30, 2015 at 12:49 pm 10 comments

Philanthropy Ohio Achieves Top Rating

Philanthropy Ohio achieved Charity Navigator’s coveted four-star rating for sound fiscal management and a commitment to accountability and transparency.

Continue Reading September 22, 2014 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment


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