Hypothesis: Shorter Board Terms Can Increase Family Engagement

By Carrie Avery, The Durfee Foundation

As the president of a family foundation that has made the transition to an all third-generation board, I am often asked by colleagues for tips on successfully engaging next gen family members. Here is one: consider offering one-year, renewable board terms to family.

I haven’t done a study on this, but I would guess that many boards have adopted something akin to the traditional model of three-year terms. Three-year terms have the advantage of providing some certainty about board composition, but a three-year commitment can be daunting to a family member who is not well into middle age. At an earlier stage in life, it can be difficult to know where you will be in three years. You could go to grad school far away, get married, start a new job, start another new job, become a parent, or move to a different state or another country. With all that uncertainty, a three-year commitment to anything can seem onerous. Some might decide to forgo the board altogether.

At The Durfee Foundation, we have long had a practice of offering one-year, renewable terms to family trustees. We also have non-family trustees, who are elected for two-year, nonrenewable terms. Some family members renew year after year. Others have taken breaks at different times in their lives when the demands of family or work did not allow board service. Board terms begin in January, and we check in with trustees each fall to see what their plans are for the coming year.

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More Ways to Create Space for Your Next Generation

By Stephen Alexander, Exponent Philanthropy

Last year, for organizations positioned to engage young leaders and for young leaders themselves, a colleague and I shared ways to create a welcoming space for the next generation to learn and build confidence. See Are You Creating Space for Young Leaders to Lead? >>

Because the challenge of engaging the next generation—and getting engaged as a young leader—persists for many Exponent Philanthropy members, I offer here three additional ways to create space at the table for your next generation.

Cultivate an open and supportive culture

Culture matters, a lot. Take the article It’s Not Foundation Money but Culture and Talent That Can Change the World, referencing research by Community Wealth Partners, work by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and a study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy—all suggesting that culture is key inside and outside philanthropic organizations.

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Reflective Practice to Move Your Philanthropy Forward

By Jan Jaffe, The Giving Practice

I had a hunch: If everyone in a room reflects on their practice, especially the practices they turn to when stymied somewhere between intent and outcome, something good and potentially powerful would result.

By practice, I mean the tools and skills one uses to have difficult conversations, move ideas along, work across the boundaries of different systems, and bring one’s best assets and manage one’s worse behaviors in service of a task.

We all have good and bad ways of reflecting on ourselves, but largely they are invisible to others—sometimes even to ourselves. If my hunch was right, perhaps we could create a space for sharing practices to up everyone’s game.

While I have been intent on discovering philanthropy’s reflective practices with a team of colleagues at The Giving Practice, Exponent Philanthropy had been operating in a yearlong peer learning program for leaders of foundations, the Master Juggler Executive Institute.

When Hanh Le, then Chief Program Officer at Exponent Philanthropy, heard that The Giving Practice was exploring the role of reflective practice as a discipline within philanthropy, she called to see what we might do together.

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[The Pulse] Philanthropy Leaders Call on American Public to Step Up to Nation’s Challenges

By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy

The Pulse
In our regular “Pulse” blog series, I explore trends influencing philanthropy by spotlighting articles, reports, and essays in the media. I cast a wide net, venturing beyond philanthropy and traditional topics to consider a variety of ideas, innovations, debates, and critiques. Read previous posts in the series   

It takes courage to attempt the near-impossible, to take on monumental challenges with only modest resources. This is the task the nonprofit sector has set for itself the past 40-plus years. Nonprofits, their funders, and the associations that serve them have struggled against poverty, hardship, and environmental degradation; achieved successes; and continually developed the rigor of their fight.

Yet it takes another kind of courage to assess, with a sober eye and honest heart, the progress made, and recognize publicly that the nonprofit sector alone cannot meet the deepening challenges. It takes courage to admit that philanthropy needs partners, a more collective effort, and a greater shared responsibility for the most vulnerable in our country.

Nell Edgington, Tom Watson, Darren Walker, and Jake Hayman are among the growing number of courageous writers and thought leaders who are questioning out loud whether philanthropy alone can solve our deepening problems. I highlighted their voices in my June 7 blog, “Hardship, Inequality, and Racial Divides Create a Reckoning for Philanthropy.”

Let’s take a deeper look at why philanthropy can’t do it alone.

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Women’s Salaries and the Gender Pay Gap in Philanthropy

By Ruth Masterson, Exponent Philanthropy 

There is a disparity between what men and women earn in philanthropy, at least as indicated by responses to our member survey in the area of foundation CEO/executive director salaries.

According to our most recent report, women who are CEOs or executive directors of small-staffed foundations earn, on average, 87¢ for every $1 paid to men in 2014:

  • 39% of foundations are male led, with an average salary of $143,589
  • 61% of foundations are female led, with an average salary of $125,092

In the same year, male CEOs received 6% pay raises, on average, while women received 5% pay raises.

The discrepancies in salaries are not due to the CEO/executive director’s years of experience, and they are not due to the foundation’s asset size, with one exception. When the foundation’s assets are $50-99.9 million, women’s average earnings jump to $1.09 for every $1 paid to men. In all other categories by asset size or experience level, the ratio ranges from 81¢ to 92¢ per $1.

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Happy Anniversary, Exponent Philanthropy

By Floyd Keene, The Triple EEE Foundation

It was bitter cold on December 3, 1997. I was driving to a monastery in Mundelein, Illinois, an unusual place to be driving at any time of the year.

I was headed to a conference sponsored by a new group called the Association of Small Foundations (now Exponent Philanthropy). I was attending the conference for two reasons: the group sounded interesting, and the conference was dirt cheap, a little over $200. Since I was local to the area, I would not have to pay for room and board. That was fortunate, since monasteries are not known for their luxurious accommodations.

I arrived at the conference five minutes early. There were about 25 people in the room, and the conference started right on time. We were about 10 minutes into the conference when a crazy thought hit me: WOW, these people are just like me. They are trying to run a foundation without really knowing how best to do it. My second thought: These people are not about putting on a show. After all, we are meeting in a monastery in Mundelein. Rather, they are about addressing real issues and helping me figure out how to deal with them.

This coming September, Exponent Philanthropy will hold a similar meeting in Chicago. No, not at a monastery, but I have full confidence that the substance of the 2016 National Conference will be the same as in 1997: knowledgeable staff, guests, and peers trying to help me solve my problems. You see, this is what Exponent Philanthropy has been doing for its entire lifetime.

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Leveraging the Power of Differences

Excerpted from the Council of Michigan Foundations’ assessment toolkit Is Your Foundation Leveraging The Power Of Differences?

Leveraging-the-Power-DifferencesOrganizations that recognize and use the power of differences (in race, age, gender, socioeconomics, personality type, and so on) generally outperform those that don’t, according to research.

With this research in hand, and based on extensive experience emerging from its Transforming Michigan Philanthropy initiative, the Council of Michigan Foundations developed a discussion guide to help foundation leaders begin essential conversations about the power of differences.

Have you explored the degree to which your foundation understands, commits to, and provides the conditions and resources necessary for leveraging differences?

Does Your Organization Value Differences?

Why it matters. In The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, University of Michigan economist Scott Page presents research demonstrating that diverse groups are better than homogeneous ones at solving problems. This finding has huge implications for foundations, where creative problem-solving is essential if we are to continue to meet the changing needs of the people we serve.

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Act Boldly, Give Wisely: Making Your Philanthropy More Opportunistic

By Dominique Maffei, The Philanthropic Initiative

This post originally appeared on The Philanthropic Initiative’s blog (May 20, 2016), as part of its Ramping Up for Impact blog series. The series digs deeper into topics explored in the primer co-authored by TPI and Exponent Philanthropy, Ramping Up Your Foundation: Key Considerations for Planning and Managing a Significant Increase in Giving. Get your copy of the primer >>

One of the most exciting elements of a ramp up in giving or assets is the opportunity to build a grantmaking strategy that can leverage your philanthropic dollars in ways that create even greater impact. But this opportunity shouldn’t be unique to those funders experiencing a ramp up.

Are you facing a ramp up, or are you just sleep walking through your annual grantmaking? Does it feel like your grantmaking cycle has taken control and you are just a passenger along for the ride? Do you have an underlying sense that you could be making your philanthropic investments go a lot further?

No matter where you are in the life cycle of your giving, you may be ready to take your grantmaking to the next level of impact. But how do you do it? At The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) we have helped many clients tackle this question, which typically involves moving beyond grantmaking and finding opportunities to make a greater impact with the same financial resources.

Get Close and Listen

Take the time to get to know your grantees. Meet them for a cup of coffee; ask them about the trends they are seeing in the field. If you are interested in getting more involved and moving beyond check writing, your grantees and the people they serve can be excellent guides.

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Changing the Culture of Philanthropy: Building a Movement to Fund Real Cost

By Sarah Middleton, PIMCO Foundation

Before I came to the PIMCO Foundation, I worked in the nonprofit sector for six years. Year one changed my career trajectory, and years two through six provided formative life experiences. I have vivid memories of my time in nonprofit, from counseling youth to meeting donors to schlepping t-shirt boxes up and down and around the town. But two of my favorite memories are:

1). Punching my campaign cost code into the fax machine and copier every single time (literally, every single time!) I had to send a fax and make a copy

2). Nearly missing out on love thanks to not-so-great IT infrastructure

Now, I’m sure #1 is crystal clear. For those of you who worked in nonprofit, you may have had to do the same code-punching. But you may be wondering about #2, so allow me to explain.

In 2006, I took a weeklong vacation to Italy. I had no smartphone at the time, and needed a complete break from work, so did not check email. When I returned to the office and began digging out of email, I found an interesting note from my friend Topher. Topher had written a matchmaking email to me and his co-worker, Tim, saying he thought the two of us might hit it off. I quickly scanned the rest of my emails from the week. No response from Tim. “What?!” I thought. “Seriously? This guy didn’t step up and write me after Topher sent his note? Forget it, then. He’s not worth my time.”

I let a few days go by and then realized I had nothing else going on, so I dug up Tim’s email address and wrote him. Two years later, we got married.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Tim had responded to Topher’s email – he had written me while I was on vacation. But my nonprofit had such lackluster IT capabilities that Tim’s email bounced back, as my inbox filled up a few days into my trip.

Insufficient Infrastructure and Limited Resources Don’t Lead to Impact

Fast forward to today. We still have nonprofits that don’t have reliable IT systems. We still have nonprofits that can’t afford training for their staff. We still have nonprofits that can’t set aside savings. And we still have nonprofits stuck in what Ann Groggins Gregory and Don Howard from Bridgespan in 2009 dubbed the “nonprofit starvation cycle.”

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My Family’s Foundation Entered the Policy Arena, and We Are Not Looking Back

As a philanthropist, your voice carries tremendous weight in the policy arena. Read on for one great example, then join us this September 26-28 in Chicago for Exponent Philanthropy’s 2016 National Conference and its 2.5-hour learning lab “A Higher ROI: Leveraging Your Resources in the Policy Arena.” Learn more and register for the 2016 National Conference >> 

By Katherine B. Wright, Wright Family Foundation

The system needs to change.

Like many family foundations, we receive several worthy requests that we turn down due to lack of funds. Most of our grants are program/project-based—reactive to the problems at hand rather than tackling them before they become an issue. In the light of this, the Wright Family Foundation is trying different ways to combat social issues from a more proactive angle.

In 2011, I was stunned to learn that the Texas Legislature was planning to cut $10 billion from the state’s public schools. And I was even more shocked to learn that many state legislators thought foundations across Texas would pick up the balance. To disabuse politicians of that notion, I attended a meeting at the state capitol with several other funders to educate them on how philanthropy works and to let them know many of us were still struggling from the effects of the economic downturn. Despite our best efforts, more than $5 billion was still cut from the public education budget.

Emboldened by our newly acquired knowledge of the policy process, and concerned about the impact of the cuts, foundations joined together in a non-partisan group called TEGAC – Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium. Through membership dues paid to TEGAC and foundation grants, we commissioned objective research on how schools implemented the cuts and took that data to the Capitol. Many schools had cut counselors and a wide range of support programs for low-income students—programs and services found by researchers to have some of the largest impact on educational outcomes.

The legislators listened and read the clear data we presented. In an ironic twist, they listened more to the voice of the foundations than they did to educators and school leaders. Why? Because in politicians’ eyes, foundations represent power and money. And they knew we meant business.

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