You and your staff can probably, collectively, leap tall buildings in a single bound. But you might not be able—or willing—to tackle every single need that presents itself to your organization. It might be time to hire a consultant. You only have so much time, and sometimes you need a new perspective and a helping hand from someone with an unbiased view and different expertise. If you are wondering just how much help consultants can be, here are 20 ways they can make your life easier.
The unburied dead, small change and the questionability of old men’s wisdom: on the eve of stepping down as executive director of TrustAfrica, an organization he founded some eight years ago, these are among the preoccupations of Akwasi Aidoo. Caroline Hartnell talked to him and to his successor, Tendai Murisa, about how each sees the change and what lies ahead for African foundations. What has been accomplished over the last decade and what comes next?
An assessment of capacity building in Washington State and one of the first frameworks for understanding community capacity. This study looks at capacity building from a strategic, statewide perspective and provides a framework for thinking systematically about capacity-building investments at a state or community level; an assessment of the capacity building landscape; and opportunities for investment in: Capacity-building at the individual nonprofit level – grants directly to nonprofits, or through local intermediaries with particular emphasis on small- and mid-sized organizations. Strengthening the nonprofit ecosystems of specific local communities – through grants to local capacity-building institutions, or by convening local partners to identify/prioritize weak or missing elements Read more
A community foundation board has a particular responsibility to identify emerging issues in its community, set funding goals or priorities accordingly, and determine when or if the foundation should act as a leader and convenor. BoardSource’s board self-assessment tool for community foundations is designed to meet the unique needs of a community foundation board by assisting in strengthening the board’s governance practices as well as its ability to respond appropriately as opportunities and challenges arise within its community. It is based on BoardSource’s standard BSA and includes questions on grantmaking and community leadership, funding and public image, and stewardship and Read more
By: Simon Willis I enjoyed reading the special feature on ‘Talent for philanthropy’. How we staff philanthropic organizations is an important topic for discussion, and it’s incredibly valuable to have carefully grounded contributions calling for increased effectiveness and professionalism for the sector. Click Go To Resource to read more…
Embedded in this case study are three Cool Tools that community foundations can access via the click of a mouse: Milwaukee’s “Good to Great” strategic plan Criteria for selecting leadership projects Metrics used to assess the Foundation’s leadership efforts Read the case study to learn more about: Building a board for leadership Operating from a values base Aligning staff Engaging donors and other co-investors Funding community leadership Increasing impact
The Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) is a one-year intensive learning opportunity tailored specifically for community foundation CEOs to strengthen their ability to step into complex leadership roles in their communities. Through three, small group, face-to-face meetings supplemented by one-on-one coaching, it is designed to strengthen CEO leadership skills and relationships. With a focus on challenging CEOs in positive ways in a supportive peer environment, the Institute is designed to stimulate creativity and inspire “out of the box” thinking. The initial ELI cohort will consist of 15 community foundation leaders drawn from a pool of CEOs from community foundations in older Read more
This report summarizes findings from an evaluation of the Community Leadership Network, a signature CFleads learning opportunity. It makes the case for why peer learning matters: practitioners learn best when they are able to hone and practice their leadership skill in environments that encourage peer learning and exchange.
As part of a multi-tiered effort to advance knowledge and understanding of community leadership, the Council on Foundations’ Community Foundations Leadership Team, in partnership with CFLeads, launched action-oriented Community Leadership Networks. Learn more about these networks here.
From 2003-2012, the country’s top foundations dedicated only 0.8 percent of total grants to nonprofit leadership development. And yet, as shown by recent historic progress around immigration, criminal justice and other social justice movements, we need leaders who are strong, skilled and connected to successfully realize positive, social change.
Author: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP)
D5’s self-assessment is a tool for identifying areas of work that your foundation is already engaged in and opportunities for growth. We invite you to complete the assessment to: Capture your foundation’s current situation Spark conversations about DEI and what is possible Identify tangible action steps that will improve your foundation’s effectiveness and strengthen its relevance in our increasingly diverse society
Features the stories, successes and experiences of CEOs and trustees of some of our nation’s leading foundations and corporate grantmaking programs, both large and small. Each has shared their unique perspectives—their struggles and strategies to overcome challenges. They have provided insight into how and to what effect diversity and inclusive practices have been embedded within their organizations. With leaders reaching out to leaders, we hope you will be inspired by their successes, and see yourself in this important work.
When you need to hire a consultant, the pressure is on. Time and money are at stake, and so is success. My work with foundations and nonprofits over the past two decades has given me the chance to observe firsthand the errors that people commonly make when trying to hire a consultant. The next time you need a consultant’s help, I hope you will save your valuable time and resources by avoiding these hiring mistakes.
Foundation and nonprofit staff are spread thin enough. There is a lot to do with a limited number of people and a limited number of hours in the day. And there are times when expecting hardworking staff to strategize and carry through an entirely new project, on top of handling their ongoing responsibilities, is asking too much. Consultants can take some of the burden off of staff while providing a new perspective and expertise. They may also increase your organization’s credibility. Here are the five main reasons most foundations and nonprofits enlist the help of outside consultants.
Pam Omidyar’s philanthropic work—including founding or co-founding with her husband, Pierre, the Omidyar Network, Hope Lab, and Humanity United—demonstrates how she has translated her passions into social change. Includes: International philanthropy, Microfinance, Medical philanthropy.
Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) is the process of improving an organization’s ability to use evaluation to learn from its work and improve results. Organizational learning is incredibly important. Organizations that are adept at learning from mistakes and adapting to new challenges are more likely to be successful, and in the nonprofit sector, more likely to make significant progress toward mission-related outcomes. In general, ECB can be used to: Improve the knowledge and skills of individuals. Staff members need to have an understanding of evaluation, and the confidence to apply basic evaluation approaches and methods to their work. Everyone does not Read more
Research shows that while foundation leadership and staff value strategy and foundations largely perceive themselves as strategic, they often struggle to articulate, implement, and track strategy. The William Penn Foundation has developed a collection of tools to articulate and assess its progress toward strategic goals. Each tool employs a structured format to promote standardization; flexibility, though, is encouraged in the application of each tool to ensure that form does not dictate function. Each tool provides a template for organizing information that should be tweaked as needed. The speed and breadth of adoption of each tool varies and is often related Read more
By: Dr. Lynn Perry Wooten, Associate Dean and Clinical Full Professor, University of Michigan Ross School of Business; co-author with Dr. Erika Hayes James, Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During, and After a Crisis For the last decade my co-author, Erika James, and I have researched how organizations lead under pressure and especially in crisis situations. Although most organizations do not frequently confront crises, leading under pressure has become a new norm. Pressurized situations can be the result of budget constraints, time limitations, stakeholders’ demands, shortage of resources or employee strife. From our research, we discovered that Read more
By: Jessica Bearman, principal, Bearman Consulting I went to Google and did a quick search on “Fun and Learning” and quickly noticed that with or without the quotation marks, all the hits were resources for kids. Searching on Adults Learning and Fun yielded a bunch of websites devoted to icebreakers… as though fun can be part of learning, as long as it’s contained at the beginning of the meeting or workshop. And so then I asked myself: “What makes learning fun and how can fun make learning better?” Based on what we know about how adults learn, here are some quick Read more
By: Sharna Goldseker, Executive Director at 21/64 From your work across multiple generations in philanthropic organizations, what are you seeing as key learning needs? Much of the work we’ve been doing at 21/64 for the past twelve years coincides with research that shows each generation brings a unique set of values, skills, and experiences to the philanthropic table. The first key learning need is around values clarification, which we believe leads not only to better working relationships among funders but also to more effective philanthropy. Beginning to uncover one’s own values and learn what values motivate others is critical to bridging the generational divide. Often, Read more
Skillman senior program officer Marie Colombo collaborates with independent consultant Prudence Brown and Della M. Hughes of the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University to examine how a foundation prepares and evolves in real time while working toward community change. (The Skillman Foundation is pleased to share this report with the permission of Foundation Review.)
This article describes the internal structures and processes adopted by The Skillman Foundation to support the iterative practice of “learning and doing” in the first phase of a rapidly evolving, ambitious community change enterprise in six Detroit neighborhoods. The foundation invested in its own and its partners’ capacity to learn in real time so that together they could adjust and readjust their strategies in response to initial results and, in doing so, deepen their working relationships and build further capacity for effective implementation. Challenges to supporting this learning culture included increased visibility and pressures to produce results and measurable outcomes, Read more
Recognizing that few guideposts existed for community foundations that want to be intentional about building their skills and aligning their organizations for community leadership, a group of philanthropy leaders – the National Task Force on Community Leadership – created this Framework. Built from actual community leadership experiences, it is the first effort to bring clarity to the practice of community leadership by community foundations. It allows community foundations to take stock, analyze options, develop strategies, and measure progress. It is a necessary first—and giant—step in creating a practical knowledge base.
Grantmakers for Effective Organizations is a diverse community of more than 500 grantmakers reshaping the way philanthropy operates to invest in nonprofit success. Mission: Understanding that grantmakers are successful only to the extent that their grantees achieve meaningful results, GEO promotes strategies and practices that contribute to grantee success. Nonprofits are successful at achieving more meaningful change in our communities when they have the resources and skills to be effective. By not adequately responding to what nonprofits say they need most to maximize impact, funders can inadvertently do harm to the organizations and causes we intend to support. Changing grantmaker Read more
The success and stability of nonprofit leaders make a tremendous difference to the organizations they shepherd and the communities they serve. This discussion paper for small foundations addresses common issues in leadership transitions for nonprofit organizations. The guide includes ways in which small foundations can invest in this area, as well as discussion questions and additional resources.
Everyone seems to be talking about it. Most say they want it. But who really gets to define impact and for whom? This blog series grew out of a collaborative effort between our team at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy and Women Moving Millions.
Author: Center for High Impact Philanthropy, University of Pennsylvania
Foundation CEOs and trustees share insights and personal stories related to significant paths of change and how they overcame setbacks. Download a copy and gain best practices to help you successfully lead your foundation, boards and staff.
Nonprofit and foundation leaders are held accountable to their stakeholders to make sure they are using their budgets to garner the best results. A strong relationship with quality consultants can help limited budgets go a long way, so it is imperative that you find a consultant who can become valuable member of your team. Simply choosing to hire a consultant isn’t enough to guarantee a successful engagement. You need to clearly communicate your goals and work together to ensure they are met. Here are few guidelines to help you succeed when working with consultants.
By: National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers member’s Molly Penn and Deborah Flood of Penn Flood Consulting In our experience, it is important to describe the process clearly and with uniformity to all prospective consultants so you can do an “apples-to-apples” comparison of their respective approaches. Toward that end, you may want to consider these internal questions we typically ask in our preliminary conversation with a prospect foundation client. Project Goals: First, clarify what you want the consultant to help you with and to what extent those goals overlap. For example, some foundations might want to use the board retreat to Read more
Author: National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (NNCG)
Leadership is one of a number of factors that determine the effectiveness of a nonprofit organization’s work. Visionary leaders possess the ability to assess the way things are and then inspire us to help create new solutions. In this sense, leadership does more than set policies and define goals; it creates a paradigm for a better world. This brief guide, part of the Philanthropy Roadmap series, is designed for both emerging and established philanthropists. It sets out five key questions that donors can ask to evaluate leadership.
Ask any grantmaker about the distinguishing characteristics of strong and effective nonprofit organizations, and the conversation inevitably will turn to leadership. But what kind of leadership do nonprofits need, and what role can grantmakers play in strengthening leadership development in the sector? Given the vast literature on leadership development and the challenges of translating research and theory into practice, this publication explores a sampling of the leadership development literature.
Author: Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO)
Ingrid Fox, advisor to the junior board of the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation, compiled these ideas for involving teens in philanthropy. *This content is available for Exponent Philanthropy members only
While much of the research on leadership and leadership development has historically studied private sector settings, recent work has begun to build knowledge about leaders in public and community settings. New models of leadership, including collective leadership, are being developed and implemented by foundations. A framework for identifying the level of intervention (individual, team, organization, network, or system) and the level of impact (individual, team, organization, community, or field of policy and practice) is proposed as a tool for more strategic investing in leadership development.
Foundations can enhance the impact of their traditional approaches to social change by harnessing imaginative and even controversial leadership. This Stanford Social Innovation Review article focuses on how Adaptive Leadership can be applied to complex social challenges.
Strong leadership is critical for effective social sector organizations, yet the sector chronically underinvests in its leaders. What do social sector leaders need to help them succeed and, just as importantly, stay in the sector? What can grantmakers do to support these leaders? This publication synthesizes findings from new research conducted by the authors and offers recommendations for grantmakers.
Author: Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO)
In this online course, gain an overview of the skills, knowledge, and attributes needed to become an effective leader and manager. Learn how to build an exciting, dynamic, productive workplace and how to unleash creative energy in yourself and your staff. Explore techniques for effectively managing staff, boards, and volunteers. Develop a strategic plan for handling difficult employee issues, communicating effectively, and managing time and stress.
Author: Academy for Grantmaking and Funder Education, New York University
Leadership development for foundation executives June 21-December 30, 2015 At Exponent Philanthropy, we know some things about you. You are committed to serving your foundation, your board, and your community. You make it a priority to leverage the most from your time and money. And you often put others first, not always getting around to investing in yourself and your professional development. With you in mind, we developed the Master Juggler Executive Institute, a carefully crafted 6-month program for those in the most senior staff role at their foundations. Program Highlights A unique opportunity for executive directors/CEOs and the foundations Read more
This article brings together the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 15 years of experience with peer networking— examining through two research studies the process of peer networking and its impact, both with community-based and funder groups. Peer networking helps people with common interests to exchange information, disseminate good practices, and build a leadership structure for work they do together, such as a community change initiative. Casey’s research identified 10 good practices for effective peer networking, as well as 10 challenges that can affect its success; a four-level model was created to provide context for these findings. The research indicates that peer Read more
Pick up any edition of Alliance from the past few years, and one message is clear. In truly unprecedented ways, the global philanthropy sector is on the move, popping up in new places, growing in scale, diversifying in form, and, more than ever before, stretching to tackle the momentous challenges that define our times such as climate change, food and water security, and immigration. While there is much talk of the financial resources needed for success, much less attention is paid to the equally if not more important human resources.
When philanthropy is assessed against seven standards for what constitutes a profession, it meets only 3 of them. Questions remain about the core concepts of the field, and how the field builds and disseminates knowledge. There is much discussion about “scientific philanthropy,” but the inability to answer these questions limits the field’s ability to function scientifically. Wisdom, rigor, and learning may be better approaches to philanthropy that a scientific approach.
Grantmakers manage a lot of expectations about their work. We’ve talked with hundreds of grantmakers about what their foundations and grantees expect of them to get their work done – and what they expect of themselves. Our new card deck, a tool we’ve named Roles@work, collects the 29 roles grantmakers mentioned most often. MORE Use the cards to jumpstart a conversation among colleagues about topics like how you weigh different roles, what you do too much of or not enough of, how you orient newcomers, or how you talk about the grantmaker’s role with board members and leaders.
In 1998, The Annie E. Casey Foundation launched a small grants program for alumni of the Children and Family Fellowship program. These mini-grants were designed to support fellowship alumni in their ongoing leadership efforts. This review highlights some of the mini-grant funded efforts and details some of the returns on the Foundation’s investments.
This article explores how reflective grantmaking can lead to enduring changes in the communities that foundations serve. The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati’s approach to evaluating and improving the sustainability of grant-funded projects is reviewed as an example. Their grantmaking framework includes policy and advocacy work, evaluation support, communications support, and technical assistance in addition to traditional funding of projects. This framework promotes sustainability of the funded work.
This guide is designed to help foundations consider how more diverse and inclusive practices might advance their mission by making their work more effective and more reflective of communities served. By highlighting 10 ways family foundations can approach diversity, this guide seeks to spark ideas and launch further dialogue.
The Grantmaking School recognizes that for most grantmakers, working with applicants and proposals is the bread-and-butter of their career and how they spend much of their time. In response, Advanced Proposal Analysis intentionally focuses on the essential skills of proposal review, recommendations, project management, and other core competency areas. We strongly believe that mastering this work is the key to excellence in grantmaking. Key concepts include: Assessing proposals more efficiently, Spotting financial red flags, Finding and closing any gaps in your due diligence process, Using specialty grants within your organization’s mission, Assuring transparent and ethical behavior, Grantee relationship management, and Read more
Author: Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy
The Grantmaking School created Customized Grantmaker Education to respond to the needs of individual foundations that seek to create a specific culture of grantmaker practice with appropriate knowledge and skills to meet their individual strategies and goals. MORE We utilize select components of our state of the art grantmaker education curricula, foundation specific information, and the expertise of our highly experienced instructors to create a powerful and relevant professional development program that is second to none. Customized Grantmaker Education removes the limitations of time, place, and standardized courses to respond directly to the individualized needs of foundation learning and skill Read more
Author: Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy
Whether formally or informally, evaluation has been an integral part of foundation work since the early twentieth century. Comprehensive programmatic evaluation helps foundations determine whether funding practices produce intended results, disseminates learning for broader impact, and provides measured context for future work. Evaluation itself is a relatively simple process; however, depending on an organization’s culture, philosophies, and capacity, it can escalate in complexity. The Grantmaking School’s Evaluation for Grantmakers does not simply provide a step-by-step guide to the best practices of evaluation; rather, it deeply examines the history, strategy, design, and theory behind the process and responds to the diverse Read more
Author: Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy
This course does not attempt to transform program officers into financial professionals. Instead, our intent is to provide grantmakers with the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct a comprehensive and effective analysis of organizational and programmatic financial information to improve funding decisions. Key concepts include: Creating a culture of comprehensive grant analysis, The relationship of financial condition to effective grantmaking, Fundamentals of grant financial review and analysis, Connecting grant budgets to funded program activities, The role of organizational capacity in producing program results, and Financial accountability in the post-grant process.
Author: Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy
Strategy Development in Grantmaking is an intensive two-day learning experience designed to help individual grantmakers and their foundations develop or refine a strategic lens to grantmaking and leverage improved program results for deeper impact. By defining strategic philanthropy and reviewing models and tools for strategy development and implementation, resources will be provided to guide and inform your foundation strategy. You and your colleagues will move through a series of individual and group activities and discussions, allowing for both interactive and personal reflection throughout the session. Key concepts include: Understanding what strategy means within a foundation’s culture and how it applies Read more
Author: Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy
The number one responsibility of any board—for-profit or nonprofit—is effective management of the senior executive, especially a new one. Yet, nonprofit leaders often report to Bridgespan that their boards fall short of that goal. Here are five ways nonprofit boards can improve onboarding and their support of new CEOs.
In more than a decade of research on nonprofit leadership, we at The Bridgespan Group have observed little change in the No. 1 organizational concern expressed by boards and CEOs: succession planning. In survey after survey of nonprofit leaders succession planning comes out on top. In fact, it is mentioned twice as often as the next concern.1 Our most recent research provides a clue as to why. Only 30 percent of C-suite roles in the nonprofit sector were filled by internal promotion in the past two years—about half the rate of for-profits.2 Even more concerning, this low promotion rate did Read more
Certification programs can provide a way for nonprofits to ensure adherence to generally accepted standards. The KH2GO Certification Pilot Project, supported by the Lumina Foundations, developed a set of standards for high-quality college access services, including standards for programming, operations, and organizational effectiveness. The project was implemented in two states with an evaluation designed to assess the quality of the assessment tools and the ease and rigor of implementation. The more clarity that applicants had about the goals of the process, potential benefits, and details about procedures, the more benefits they perceived. Many applicants felt that the self-assessment improved their Read more
The Organizational Effectiveness team at the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation has developed a Resiliency Guide – a framework for assessing organizational resiliency, and a resource for understanding its characteristics. The tool and accompanying resources are designed to be useful to grantees and grantmakers – hopefully facilitating their dialogue about the challenges of operating in a dynamic context. The Guide and related materials draw on the experience of the Foundation’s program staff and external experts, and incorporate feedback and perspectives from a range of grantees and colleagues.
Take a moment and read these two words: strategic plan. Now close your eyes and picture one. If what comes up is a thick binder, gathering dust on a shelf next to other thick binders from five and ten years past, you’re not alone. We believe that a better understanding of the history of strategy and what caused the demise of binder-bound strategic planning can point the way to re-inventing strategy for the world we live in today.
Given the scale and complexity of the challenges they face, foundations increasingly need to look beyond their organizations to other stakeholders–both in philanthropy and across sectors–to mobilize sufficient resources and effort to move the needle on pressing social problems. Yet working together remains a challenge: simply knowing what other funders are supporting can require time-consuming research, meetings, and calls. As one foundation executive recently explained, “When funders come together for a day to talk about an issue, we spend 80 percent of the time talking about what we do, which leaves us with only 20 percent of the day to Read more
Tiger Foundation was started by legendary investor Julian Robertson, Jr., founder of Tiger Management. One of the most successful hedge funds of the 1990s, Tiger Management quickly generated incredible wealth for its 20- and 30-year old investment staff. But from the beginning, Robertson also wanted to instill in his employees a commitment to giving back. Equally important, he wanted to cultivate in them the desire to move beyond “traditional charity” and participate actively in the philanthropic process. So he created a venue for doing so, establishing the Tiger Foundation in 1990 with a dual mission that drives the organization to Read more
By: Barbara Demarest, strategy consultant, Barbara Demarest Consulting Over the past several years, there has been discussion in the world of philanthropy about failure. Here is a collection of ideas about failure – whether you learn more from it than success, how you learn from it, how organizations look at it, and the importance of failure in achieving eventual success. These different viewpoints on failure and learning come from both the field of philanthropy and from other sectors. Following Up on Failure – from The Chronicle of Philanthropy regarding learning from failure Failing Forward – posted on both Lucy Bernholz’s Philanthropy 2173 and Alliance Magazine’s blog Exploring Read more
As a pilot for advancing culturally-relevant leadership training and effective practice in Black philanthropy, ABFE’s Transformational Leadership Services support a broad range of its members and allied partners within the philanthropic sector. We offer capacity building activities that strengthen management and leadership skills to address the complex issues that face Black communities, and coaching & training models that address the effects of long-term institutional racism and discriminatory policy implementation.
Traditional approaches to foundation evaluation do not help trustees make informed strategic decisions. This toolkit offers new ways for trustees and foundations to better plan work, improve implementation and track progress toward goals.
Brian Leslie M.B.A., SwitchPoint LLC; Kelsey Noonan B.A., SwitchPoint LLC; Clint Nohavec M.B.A., SwitchPoint LLC This article categorizes the distinct roles played by philanthropy consultants and presents a tool and framework for charitable foundations to identify and evaluate the roles and capabilities they need from those consultants. The article categorizes seven capability areas, from strategy setting to talent development, that are core to all foundations. Then, it identifies trigger points within these capability areas that lead foundations to undertake projects that may require outside support. Third, the article maps the capabilities that foundations consider in determining whether and how to engage philanthropy Read more
Chances are, you’ve been in this position: The foundation for which you work needs to find consulting expertise to help with a particular project, program, initiative, etc. Everyone agrees that the first step is to develop an RFP so you can get qualified consultants to respond. It’s a thorough, fair, and transparent process. Right? Wrong. Click on the link below to read more.
This brief provides tried and true advice to grantmakers who are considering or seeking outside expertise. Topics include: Reasons grantmakers turn to consultants Components of a successful consultant/grantmaker relationship Ways to use a consultant How to identify possible consultants How to choose and retain a consultants This paper was prepared by Barbara R. Greenberg and Jan Schwartz of The Philanthropic Group, based on their webinar presented for Philantrhopy New York in collaboration with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers.
Author: National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (NNCG)
You can use our guides, videos, and cases to foster dialogue with colleagues. We offer several ready-to-go workshops, complete with slide decks and facilitator notes. To help you find discussion-generating activities that fit your group, look at examples of how others have used our guides and videos as a springboard to exploring the craft of grantmaking. The examples can be modified to fit your topic. And a range of tools pulled directly from our guides and videos can help you generate topical content.