By Janice Simsohn Shaw, ASF
Last week I wrote about why strong facilitation skills are important in philanthropy. Here are 5 facilitation tips I shared at a recent ASF Local Program with Delaware Valley Grantmakers.
1. TIME – Build in plenty of planning time for facilitating. One handy rule of thumb: for a really productive meeting, spend twice as much time on planning as you would for the meeting itself. Do everyone a favor and spend the time to craft a realistic agenda. More times than not, we know what we can accomplish realistically in a given amount of time. Consider what’s most valuable to do when people are together in person (or by phone) and focus your energies there. An overstuffed agenda leaves everyone feeling frustrated. A manageable one leaves everyone feeling accomplished and proud. Which do you prefer?
2. STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT – Get the right people at the table, then engage and inform them in advance as much as possible for success. Stop to think who really needs to be part of a given discussion, meeting, or event. Do you need representatives from the community to bring their voices? Outside experts? Perhaps your whole board needn’t be part of a particular discussion. They won’t be sad to have a shorter agenda, I can nearly promise. And involve key stakeholders in the meeting-planning process – to minimize surprises and gain buy-in and active participation at the actual event/meeting.
3. DESIRED OUTCOMES – Get clear on what you want to accomplish and let that drive your…
4. AGENDA – Surprised to see this listed so late in the game? I know when I’m rushing I start with my agenda, but when I take the time first to consider what I want to accomplish, how much time I have, and who needs to be part of the conversation and the planning, I find that I build more realistic and satisfying agendas. And as a facilitator, it’s important to share the agenda — in most cases, both in advance of and at the beginning of a meeting — to get and keep all parties on the same page.
5. ROLES – Make sure it’s clear who’s playing what role. Who’s facilitating? Who’s participating? Who gets a vote? Who gets to just add input? There is no right answer, except to make sure that roles are crystal clear to everyone in the event. Try not to facilitate if possible when you are deeply invested in the topic on the table. And remember, the facilitator needn’t always be the same, even during the course of a single meeting.
I’d love to know what you’ve learned about facilitating in the foundation realm, and what questions you still have. What’s sticky, what’s tricky, what’s working, and what’s not? Let me know! Comment here, or send questions my way: Janice@smallfoundations.org.
Want to learn more? If you’re coming to the ASF 2012 National Conference in San Francisco, plan to attend the 3-hour Learning Lab on facilitation, Monday, October 8, from 8:30-11:30 a.m. ASF members can also read our tear sheet, Facilitation: Tools of the Trade for Foundation Leaders, available on the ASF website.
Senior Program Manager Janice Simsohn Shaw oversees a range of ASF member services, including programs for executive directors and our pithy resources known as tear sheets. An experienced trainer and facilitator with more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, she has received training from the Interaction Institute for Social Change and has designed and led learning experiences of all sorts, from giving circle retreats to facilitation trainings for consultants.