Posts filed under ‘Professional Reading’

What I’m reading

headshot of claudia smilingPhilanthropy Ohio’s president and CEO, Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D., and I are quite voracious readers, both on the job and off. Suzanne listens to a lot of books on CD during her travel around the state and I’m always amazed at the depth and breadth of what she’s reading. It’s a rare week that goes by without one of us saying to the other, “Here’s a GREAT book I just read, I think you’ll like it.”

The love of reading – and learning – has extended to us creating a “book club” for staff: the current book, which we’ll be discussing during a staff meeting on Wednesday, is Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. As J.D. explains, he wrote the book because “I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children. I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it.” If you haven’t read the book, check out his TED talk for a glimpse into his life. J.D. Vance has recently moved back to Ohio, as he explains in this NY Times piece, where he’s started a nonprofit focused on the opiate addiction crisis.


stack of books on a table

Another Ohioan’s experience about living the American Dream comes in Robert Putnam’s book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, in which he analyzes and compares his growing up in Port Clinton during the 1950s to what’s happening half a century later. Putnam is perhaps best known for his Making Democracy Work and Bowling Alone books, two of 14 books he’s written during his academic career. I’ve read a few of them and just recently finished Our Kids.

Putnam brings the same careful, thoughtful scholarship to this book as he portrays the lives of diverse families at opposite ends of the economic spectrum. At the beginning of the final chapter, Putnam writes, “This book has presented a series of portraits of the contrasting lives of American young people from more and less privileged backgrounds, alongside more rigorous evidence that those personal portraits represent nationwide realities. We have examined the concentric circles of influence… and we have seen how in recent decades the challenges and opportunities facing rich and poor kids have grown more disparate.” He then describes his recommendations for how parents, communities and schools can change the opportunity gap.

Another book I’ve dipped into is Bruce Bartlett’s The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need it and What It Will Take. Although published 5 years ago, it is still of great relevance to the debates heating up in Washington D.C. this year. Bartlett served in economic policy positions for both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush and is a frequent contributor to a variety of news media outlets. One of my favorite quotes is this: “Ideally, one would like to start with a clear philosophy of what government should do and how much it should spend, and only then decide how to raise the revenue to pay for it” – not a likely scenario in 2017.

Next up on my reading list is The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age by David Callahan. He’s the founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy and co-founder of Demos, “a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy.” I’ll be interested to read his description and analysis – and his opinion of – the rise of new philanthropists and how they are changing life in America. I suspect I’ll get a different set of perspectives and opinions in the next book in my reading stack, Philanthropy in Democratic Societies, a series of essays edited by Rob Reich, Chiara Cordelli and Lucy Bernholz.

Claudia Y. W. Herrold


June 5, 2017 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

Are you prepared for when disaster strikes?

headshot of claudiaWhether it’s Winter Storm Jonas that just finished dumping feet of snow across the east coast, an earthquake in Alaska or flooding in the Midwest, philanthropy is fast on the scene to help with relief and recovery. The newly-released Disaster Philanthropy Playbook is filled with resources and strategies to help philanthropy respond to such disasters. It’s a multimedia, interactive magazine that’s easy to access and use.


Available for free download online, the guide has compiled a wide array of strategies, best practices and lessons learned about how philanthropy has helped local economies, nonprofits and populations when disaster struck. It was published earlier this month by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, whose sole mission is to increase the effectiveness of funders and donors who respond to disasters both at home and abroad.

Of particular interest to funders is a resource on philanthropy’s role in disaster planning and response, a 47-page book based on the experience of 62 Alabama tornadoes that killed 248 people in 2011. The massive storm system damaged or destroyed more than 23,000 houses in rural and urban areas in a single day. Sherri McGill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, says this about philanthropy’s role, in her preface to the book:

Jesse-Ball-duPont-Fund-Creating-Order-from-Chaos-1“No doubt, we must be prepared to fund immediate relief. But that stage ends quickly. To help individuals and communities raise the capital they will need to recover and rebuild, we must be communicators of accurate information, for individuals, for the media, for mayors, church and civic leaders. If communities have not built the necessary infrastructure for receiving public and private capital designed to rebuild a community – housing is among the greatest needs – philanthropy must lead the effort to build that infrastructure.”

Explore the excellent resources that can help you prepare – before disaster strikes.

claudia signature

Claudia Y.W. Herrold

January 25, 2016 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

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

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,

claudia signature

Claudia Y.W. Herrold

July 14, 2015 at 2:43 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.

claudia signature

Claudia Y.W. Herrold

June 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm 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.


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

Older Posts

Visit Our Website

Get Your Philanthropy Ohio News First

Reader Subscription

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 100 other followers


%d bloggers like this: