The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania…a LearnPhilanthropy Content Partner…. provides independent analysis,education and other decisionmaking tools for donors concerned with maximizing the social impact of their funds. The Center believes that the most promising opportunities exist where three domains – research,informed opinion and field experience – overlap.
The Center invited us to reflect a bit on LearnPhilanthropy’s goals and criteria,and share stories on lessons learned so far.
Check out our Q &A with the Center HERE!
LearnPhilanthropy invited Alison Powell to share what she is learning about due diligence – and how to do it well. Alison is the Philanthropy Knowledge Manager for The Bridgespan Group,a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven leaders and organizations and a LearnPhilanthropy Content Partner. Check out her guest post below!
By Alison Powell,Philanthropy Knowledge Manager,The Bridgespan Group
Should you invest in a particular nonprofit organization? Bridgespan has developed what we call the “Donor Decision Tool” to help you answer that critical question.
In addition,every week over the next four months we’re tackling the subject of due diligence—learning enough about the results,leadership,financials,and operations of an organization to make the right investment decision,while respecting the limited time of its busy leaders—by sharing a tip or trick to assist you in your nonprofit research. We’re calling this our #NonprofitDueDiligence campaign.
During the campaign,we’ll spotlight materials from our Donor Decision Tool,as well as publish guest posts from professionals and philanthropists with experience vetting nonprofit organizations.
In our first week of the #NonprofitDueDiligence campaign,we wrote about four key principles for researching potential grantees,which I’d like to share with you now. Given the power dynamics between donors and grantees,it may be useful to keep these principles in mind when you are initiating your research.
- Above all,do no harm. Be aware of the vast difference in power between you and the nonprofit organizations you are thinking about funding. They will try to comply with your requests because they need the funding and it’s yours to give (or not). Responding to your requests can be a time-consuming,costly process. To whatever extent possible,ask for materials that already exist—every hour nonprofit leaders spend formatting data to fit your templates is an hour they are not spending on their mission.
- Be rigorous,but don’t overdo it. Pursue your research only to the extent that the information you are gathering is necessary to make a decision. Again,it takes time to answer all of your questions. Match the depth of your process to the size and riskiness of the grant you’re considering,and focus on what you don’t know. For example,if you have a high degree of confidence in the organization’s leadership and strategy,focus on what you’d like to learn more about,such as the nonprofit’s current financial situation. Don’t feel you can (or should) know everything before you make a grant—a fair amount can only be learned along the way.
- Be realistic. Expect nonprofits to have weaknesses as well as strengths. Context matters:Depending on the size,age,and growth trajectory of a nonprofit organization or a particular program,its capabilities will look quite different. For example,don’t expect a startup to have efficient systems or CEO-succession planning.
- Be forward-thinking. As you discover weaknesses,ask:What can I do to help this organization improve? For example,your grant dollars could help to develop future leaders or purchase new technology to measure results and improve performance over the long-term. On the other hand,be realistic about the limits of what your funding could provide.
What do you think of these ideas? What do you find the most challenging? Are there any you disagree with?
Please share your comments here! And to follow and add your thoughts to the campaign,follow Bridgespan on Twitter @BridgespanGroup or sign up for the Give Smart blog. You can also share any thoughts on Twitter under #NonprofitDueDiligence.
We’ve always talked about the LearnPhilanthropy collaboration — funders and providers working together to create a truly field wide resource for grant maker learning –in terms of scaling a mountain. It’s a long journey,and there are many intermediate peaks along the way,as those of you who have been hiking with us know well.
We’re thrilled to say we’ve reached the next peak: On Monday,April 23,we moved our prototype out from “behind the wall,”and made LearnPhilanthropy BETA available to any and all on the web at LearnPhilanthropy.net.
Don’t get us wrong – it’s still a work in progress. The catalogue connects to a couple of hundred resources and not the thousands it will grow to encompass. There are 26 early adopter providers, with many,many more to come as LearnPhilanthropy grows. There are still bugs to be corrected,and features to improve. And there are sections that are now mostly placeholders (frameworks,collections,ask the experts). But we’ve judged it strong enough to want lots more eyeballs on it.
Many of you have helped us by testing the platform as it has developed, improving what we have and making real the concept of “built by the field for the field.” Now, as LearnPhilanthropy gets ready to scale up,we need to broaden the inputs. Please send us to your friends and colleagues, and especially newcomers to the LearnPhilanthropy journey. We need all of you to go on the site, explore what’s there, search for resources, create a profile, and leave us feedback on the site’s feedback form or via online surveys, which we’ll send out periodically.
Thank you for all you’ve done, and for more to come!
The LearnPhilanthropy Work Team: Marcia, Barbara, Dara, Allen, and Jessica
Will you be attending the Council on Foundations’2012 Annual Conference in Los Angeles,April 29-May 1?
If so,we invite you to drop by and visit LearnPhilanthropy while you’re there!
We’ll have a booth set up in Exhibitors Hall,2nd Level / Platinum Ballroom.
There you’ll be able to:
- Check out LearnPhilanthropy’s beta prototype platform
- Share your burning learning questions
- Meet some members of the LearnPhilanthropy team
- Network with grantmaker colleagues who are committed to learning
Special thanks to COF for providing exhibitor space.
By Dara Major
At LearnPhilanthropy,we’re bringing the community of learners and learning providers together,in a central hub,to share resources and insights on good practice.
One way we’re doing this is by reaching out to folks across the field – to inquire about their priorities,share our vision,and find areas of alignment as we co-create LearnPhilanthropy.
We’ve had a terrific response to this outreach,and a growing number of learning providers are joining us as Content Partners.
Please join us in welcoming our newest Content Partners:
Academy for Grantmaking and Funder Education,New York University
Alliance for Justice
Center for High Impact Philanthropy,University of Pennsylvania
Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy
Minnesota Council on Foundations
Combined with our initial Content Partners…..
Association of Small Foundations
The Bridgespan Group
Center for Effective Philanthropy
Council on Foundations
Council of Michigan Foundations D5 Coalition
Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Foundation Center / GrantCraft
Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington
The Grantmaking School
Grants Managers Network
National Center for Family Philanthropy
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
…. LearnPhilanthropy now has a fantastic group of 26 Content Partners on board.
Yahoo! And big thanks to all of our Content Partners!!
As we continue to build the LearnPhilanthropy prototype platform,we’ll be sharing what we’re gathering,learning and wrestling with along the way.
Meanwhile…want to join us? Have a collection of high-quality learning resources that you would like to share? Please let us know! Post your comment here or email us at email@example.com.
LearnPhilanthropy’s Content Partners have caught our attention with the following great resources. All are at the intersection of learning and philanthropy,for greater impact:
“Joining Forces:Funder Collaboratives for International Projects” GrantCraft hosted a free webinar to explore how funder collaboratives can help grantmakers aim for larger goals,distribute risks,learn together,and achieve greater impact. Produced in partnership with the Africa Grantmakers’Affinity Group,the discussion was moderated by Foundation Center President Bradford Smith and featured speakers from the Carnegie Corporation of New York,Firelight Foundation,New Field Foundation,and the Wallace Global Fund.
“Leveraging Limited Dollars:How Grantmakers Achieve Tangible Results by Funding Policy and Community Engagement“ This report distills findings from research amassed over three years as part of NCRP’s Grantmaking for Community Impact Project (GCIP). The project documented $26.6 billion in benefits for taxpayers and communities in 13 states,and found that every dollar grantmakers and other donors invested in policy and civic engagement provided a return of $115 in community benefit.
“Reframing the Conversation:A GEO Briefing Paper Series on Growing Social Impact“ Authored by Dara Major and other contributors,the collection pulls together the best thinking,research and actionable approaches to scaling impact,and provides additional resources for grantmakers that seek a deeper dive into these concepts and questions.
By Dara Major
Philanthropy rocks! There’s a whole lot of collective intelligence in this community. How can we,together,get better at tapping into and using it?
As the LearnPhilanthropy team member leading our knowledge and content efforts (including framing initial ideas about what this collaborative network might support,and identifying relevant knowledge frameworks and content areas),I’ve taken a deeply engaged,social learning network approach – facilitating conversations with and capturing collective reflections by a really diverse community of stakeholders.
We’re kicking social learning up a notch through LearnPhilanthropy’s prototype platform,and excited about launching this new resource…soon. Meanwhile,with your help,we’re putting some cornerstones in place.
Big thanks to the more than 30 practitioners who,over just the last couple of months,have helped to inform and give shape to what we believe is the first general-purpose,field-wide taxonomy focused squarely on grantmaker learning. This “Real Simple Taxonomy” is a highly iterative work-in-progress,more user-generated folksonomy than the traditionally hierarchical taxonomy. Over time,it will be used to help inform search,browse,and whole lot of other activities on the platform.
But taxonomy is not the same thing as navigation!
Though we hope this entire taxonomy will make it into the platform…. to date,only a small slice of the taxonomy has actually been baked in to the platform pie. Most keyword topics or tags are not operational yet. That work is proceeding on a parallel but much longer technology execution timeline. Ditto re supporting contributions of additional tags and taxonomies by our community of users. In other words,this is a multi-faceted work in progress. (Oh to have Google’s development budget!)
Our Real Simple Taxonomy co-creators so far have come from,to name just a few places: Center for Effective Philanthropy, Fleishhacker Foundation,the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, The William &Flora Hewlett Foundation, McCormick Foundation,and the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Thanks to all for taking a deep dive with us.
The latest version of the Real Simple Taxonomy is HERE !! It includes the complete set of key topics,or tags,such as due diligence,strategy,and capacity building…clustered into a few simple buckets. All contributed and road-tested by our co-creators.
Check it out! And if you have a taxonomy to share or would like to get involved,please do leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Career Strategist and Master Certified Coach Michele Woodward who kindly allowed us to re-publish her recent blog post.
On Being Kind
Meaning and purpose.
The power of choice.
How to listen.
These are all topics you and I have been talking together about so far this year. All topics I think are vital for success in today’s world of work. And there’s another important one I want to raise with you right now:
It helps to be kind.
I know,I’m a hopeless optimist. Because we all know,as Leo Durocher famously said,“Nice guys finish last”. Guess what? A new study even seems to support that idea. The study found thatdisagreeable men made about $10,000 more a year than more agreeable men.
The big difference between agreeable people and disagreeable people seems to be the extent to which agreeable folks will go to preserve relationships.
Agreeable people will bend over backwards to prevent discord,difficult conversations or hard feelings.
And often lose something important in the attempt. When I’m overly agreeable,I lose my autonomy. My personhood. My ability to think for myself. My ability to advocate for myself.
Hey,I don’t want you to lose. Really. So let me offer a slight re-definition and shift that might give you a different perspective.
You see,in my mind,there’s an important difference between being overly agreeable and being kind.
It’s kind to offer advice,support and guidance to someone as they work through a challenging project at work.
It’s overly agreeable when I take over the project at the last moment when you drop the ball –and you take full credit for the end result.
It’s kind when I give a chance to a kid looking for her first job.
It’s overly agreeable when I make room for the Area Vice President’s shiftless,idiot nephew in my department.
It’s kind to remind the boss when I’m going to be on vacation,and create a plan to make sure everything’s covered in my absence.
It’s overly agreeable to take work with me on vacation.
It’s kind when I quietly draw you aside and whisper that you have spinach in your teeth.
It’s overly agreeable to pick the spinach out for you.
Note the distinction?
That’s why the modern workplace could use more kindness and less at “any costs”agreeableness. I’m not saying we go all Meryl-Streep-in-The-Devil-Wears-Prada - in fact,the economic difference between agreeable and disagreeable women in the study was negligible. Researchers remind women:“Nice girls might not get rich,but ‘mean’girls do not do much better. Even controlling for human capital,marital status,and occupation,highly disagreeable women do not earn as much as highly agreeable men.”
The thing is this:too many of us –overly agreeable men and agreeable women –bring to work all of our childhood “stuff”about being good and making everything right and smoothing relationships so no one yells at us,or tells us we’re big disappointments,or grounds us on Homecoming weekend.
We operate from fear,people. Which puts us at a disadvantage right from the start.
We’ve got to knock that off. Right away.
Because overly agreeable men and overly agreeable women lose when we mistake agreement with kindness. We lose money,we lose opportunity,we lose values,we lose ownership,we lose,lose,lose.
So,let’s re-define. Kindness means:
Having an opinion.
Listening to the opinions others and respectfully disagreeing if that’s the way it is.
Saying no sometimes.
Saying yes only sometimes.
Taking the risk to be fully yourself.
Truly kind leaders –regardless of their position on the org chart –are the ones we all remember. They’re the ones we are grateful to. Who are our most memorable mentors.
They’re the ones who make a difference.
Know what? That can be you.
You can leave a truly indelible legacy.
It all starts with kindness.
The level of personal giving in the U.S. hovers at 2-3% of income. According to GivingUSA’s most recent study, in 2010 “Americans contributed about 2 percent of disposable personal income to philanthropic causes,a number that has remained remarkably consistent over the decades,regardless of economic climate.”
The organization Bolder Giving is trying to increase that –and inspired the billionaire Giving Pledge –by encouraging people of all backgrounds to:
- Give More –increase their giving as a percent of income,assets or business profits;
- Risk More –shift how they give by exploring opportunities to give collaboratively,to communities besides their own,to social change and entrepreneurial efforts;and
- Inspire More –spark discussions about giving with others and share their giving stories to provide a catalyst for new conversations.
Bolder Giving and Tides are holding an event in San Francisco on February 22,2012 to share details about their collaborative work –if you’re interested in learning more and in the Bay Area,rsvp &drop by! Or join one of Bolder Giving’s free monthly teleconferences with a bold giver.
The Council on Foundations has set an early application deadline of February 20,2012 for its Career Pathways leadership program. Career Pathways is a twelve-month experience that seeks to increase the number of candidates from diverse backgrounds in the philanthropic leadership pipeline.
The program is conducted annually for approximately a dozen mid-career professionals who have a serious interest in pursuing executive and senior leadership positions in philanthropy.
The program was developed as a response to the field’s commitment to diversity and inclusion practices. For the purposes of the program,“diversity”encompasses but is not limited to ethnicity,race,gender,sexual orientation and identification,age,economic circumstance,class,disability,geography,and philosophy.
The Career Pathways program is open to individuals currently employed in COF-member and non-member grantmaking institutions and foundations. Those working outside philanthropy may also submit applications which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Self-nominations are not permissible.
Invitations to participate in Career Pathways are highly competitive,and the offer is based on the strength of the individual’s application,nominations,leadership experience,and potential. Participants must commit to fully participate in and prepare for all program learning sessions and related programs and activities. While there is no programmatic cost,if selected participants are responsible for their own accommodation and transportation expenses.
For more information or to complete the RFP,visit the Council on Foundations website.
Click here to read a related LearnPhilanthropy post by Elizabeth Myrick.