Collective Impact vs. Collaboration: Do You Know the Differences?

Exponent Philanthropy thanks the Annie E. Casey Foundation for partnering to deliver a 3-part “Improving Outcomes for Children & Families” webinar series. This post is based on one part of the series: Collective Impact: B’More for Healthy Babies Case Study. Exponent Philanthropy members may access the 90-minute webinar recording >>

Collaboration is a common strategy to solve social problems, but collective impact—aligning diverse stakeholders around shared outcomes—may be less familiar. And the two are not one and the same.

“There are a lot of folks out there talking about collective impact, and it is somewhat getting watered down as a result…replacing the word collaboration,” according to Jeff Edmondson, founder and executive director of StriveTogether, which helps communities identify and scale what works in education.

What distinguishes collective impact from collaboration?

Continue reading

5 Building Blocks of a Successful Media Strategy

Every organization, no matter the size, should consider developing a media strategy. Beautifully landscaped Facebook pages and carefully crafted tweets are less important than unified messages and timely goals.

The following general guidelines, excerpted from our Media Toolkit for Exponent Philanthropy members, can be adopted by any nonprofit or foundation seeking to build relationships with its community and craft a powerful media strategy.

Download “Media Toolkit: A Funder’s Guide to Engaging With Members of the Media” (Exponent Philanthropy members) >>

1. Identify a Purpose (“The Why”)

Every media strategy should be rooted in a specific message and sense of purpose. The public won’t respond to your call for attention if you don’t know why you’re calling them. Your campaign should be firmly targeted to both the population you want to serve and the people who can help you serve them. Scattered media strategies result in scattered goals and lackluster results. Before you initiate any campaign, make sure you know why you are doing so.

Continue reading

8 Silo-Smashing Trends in Philanthropy

By Kris Putnam-Walkerly, Putnam Consulting Group

In my work as a philanthropic advisor, I come across philanthropy in all forms—from individual giving to institutional grantmaking and everything in between. It used to be that most of my clients engaged in their work from behind a wall of protection. Charity and grantmaking were held aside and in addition to other forces for good. However, over the past few years I’ve noticed philanthropy in all forms becoming less siloed and more interwoven with the world around it. Here are eight manifestations of this trend:

  1. CEO branding. Foundation CEOs and high-net-worth donors, following in the footsteps of their corporate counterparts, are realizing the personal and professional value of developing their own “brands”—through blog posts, speeches, articles, and more. By using their voices more aggressively (and sometimes independently), they help support the reputations of the philanthropies they serve and incite meaningful conversation and debate within the field.
  1. Use of advisors and coaches. Philanthropy used to be something largely driven by an individual donor or foundation founder’s own gut instincts and emotional connections, and guided only by their own perceptions and experiences. Philanthropic advisors were practically unheard of. Increasingly, however, philanthropists recognize that those with specific knowledge and experience in philanthropy, grantmaking, leadership, strategy, and operations can provide valuable insight and guidance to help funders make dramatic and rapid change.
  1. Faster health conversions. Twenty years ago, when health conversion foundations first began to appear, their path toward effective philanthropy was gradual. New health conversion foundations usually moved slowly from a broad, “supporting our community” clinical health focus to more strategic efforts that addressed social determinants of health. (Part of this was because the field’s discussion of social determinants was also in its infancy.) Nowadays, I find new health conversion foundations eager to hit the ground running with well-thought-out, strategic approaches that engage communities quickly and deeply, and strive for impact.

Continue reading

From the Mouths of Funders and Nonprofits: 20 Ways to Build Better Relationships

By Henry Berman, Exponent Philanthropy, and Jenny Chandler, National Council of Nonprofits

Last week we held two Great Funder-Nonprofit Relationships programs generously supported by the Fund for Shared Insight. More than 200 total participants, representing both funders and nonprofits, joined us for candid conversations in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

What does a great funder-nonprofit relationship look and feel like?

We asked this question during the program and gathered 30 responses that summed up the participants’ collective vision:

  1. Open
  2. Honest
  3. Comfortable
  4. Transparent
  5. Trusting
  6. Authentic
  7. Informative
  8. Aligned
  9. Transforming
  10. Personal
  11. Responsive
  12. Flexible
  13. Two-way
  14. Accountable
  15. Thoughtful
  1. Realistic
  2. Accepting
  3. Humanistic
  4. Evolving
  5. Intentional
  6. Strategic
  7. Rewarding
  8. Mutually beneficial
  9. Sustainable
  10. Curious
  11. Inspirational
  12. Patient
  13. Collaborative
  14. Relaxed not rushed
  15. Fun!

Continue reading

Coming to the Work as Equals

By Paul Serini, The Helen J. Serini Foundation

When my wife and I set up our family foundation in 2012, we engaged my three children (then in their late teens and early 20s) in deciding whether a foundation was something we wanted to do as a family. We pressed the kids long and hard, even handed out questionnaires, wanting it to be a collective decision, a shared responsibility.

All three stepped to the plate. They made clear that they understood the responsibility and accepted the challenges. From there, we developed everything about the foundation in cooperation: the size and number of grants, voting rules, areas of focus. We designed our grantmaking approach to give back as much as possible, meaning we look for ways to partner beyond dollars. We think very carefully about strengthening the organizations we work with.

In time, say 10–15 years, I want to step back and have my children run the foundation. That means being conscious about ceding control and viewing all foundation members—regardless of age—as equals.

Sharing Control Peer to Peer

The biggest challenge we’ve encountered—and I have to believe this is the biggest challenge of any young organization—is sharing control as peers. On a small board composed of three kids, two parents, and a bunch of other 65-year-old adults, it’s something that requires a conscious effort in all interactions. But it’s worth it.

Continue reading

Tips for Effective Meetings With Government Officials, From Our Firsthand Experience

By Kristina Nygaard and Cynthia Schaal, Exponent Philanthropy

This year’s Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) was hosted by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers in partnership with the Council on Foundations and Alliance for Charitable Reform. FOTH is a multiday event that brings foundation leaders from across the country to Washington, DC for meetings with Congress about key issues of importance to foundations and philanthropy. Foundation trustees and staff work with their regional associations to schedule meetings on Capitol Hill to personally discuss their work with members of Congress.

Excited to join members and staff from Philanthropy California for meetings with some of their representatives, we left our DC office for Capitol Hill to represent the small-staffed foundation perspective. We also wanted to gain firsthand experience in meeting with elected officials to determine further ways to support our members interested in advocacy.

Our top takeaways on effective in-person meetings with elected officials include:

Share local connections and stories

Be prepared to share specific stories of how the projects and organizations you support positively impact a local issue that is also high on the official’s agenda. Stating if you are originally from and/or live in their state/district, actively fund organizations in those areas, and have mutual professional and personal contacts also resonated in meetings. Senators and representatives were keenly interested in hearing their constituents’ concerns, not merely broad national issues.

Continue reading

With a Staff I Can Count on One Hand

By Jamie Serino, MicroEdge + Blackbaud

Can we really make a difference where it matters?

Sometimes, it can be easy to go down a mental road of believing the world’s problems are so big that we need massive piles of money and a vast staff to truly effect change. If you’re part of a smaller foundation, you may have even caught yourself thinking this way at one point or another.

Can small foundations with limited staff and limited assets make a big difference?

“Absolutely,” says Exponent Philanthropy CEO Henry Berman.

I spoke recently with Henry, also co-trustee of a $20 million foundation. One of the most powerful undercurrents to our conversation was Henry’s focus on empowering smaller foundations to deepen their ability to achieve impact.

During our conversation, Henry discussed three areas in particular that really stood out to me.

Continue reading

Meet the World’s Largest Impact Investing Network

By Meredith Martindale, Investors’ Circle, an Exponent Philanthropy Professional Partner

Investors’ Circle (IC) is the world’s largest and most active impact investing network and has invested over $200 million into more than 330 enterprises dedicated to improving the environment, education, health, and community. The organization was founded in 1992 by a group of successful social entrepreneurs who shared a desire to increase the flow of capital to the next generation of mission-driven companies.

Over the years, IC has worked with other leading organizations, including the Ford Foundation, F.B. Heron Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation to build both mission- and program-related investing knowledge base. As IC brought together thought leaders, new initiatives were conceived and incubated, including sector leaders B Lab, Slow Money, and the Patient Capital Collaborative.

In 2009, IC introduced a local network strategy with Philadelphia being the flagship network. Since then, local networks are now active in five other geographies around the country: Boulder-Denver, Boston, New York, Raleigh-Durham, and Washington, DC.

Though the organization is headquartered in Durham, NC, its 230+ members are spread across the country and convene regularly at in-person pitch meetings and investor education workshops.

What is IC’s key to success over the past 25 years?

Our members. 

As such, I’m delighted to introduce you to Annarie Lyles, an IC lifetime member and current president of the IC Philadelphia Local Network.

Continue reading

Mentoring Young Adults in the Youth Philanthropy Movement

By Sammie Holzwarth, Foundant Technologies

At Foundant Technologies—provider of online grants management solutions for grantmakers and grantseekers—we have always been supporters of the youth philanthropy movement. We began as early sponsors and supporters of Youth Philanthropy Connect (YPC), a youth-led peer advisory network for young people involved in philanthropy. We attended their conferences and even joined them during their on-the-road events in 2015.

Mark Larimer, our VP of Marketing and Client Success, and I were amazed time and time again at how thoughtful and professional the participating youth, ages 8–21, were at making real granting decisions.

It was on the road in 2015 that Mark and I discussed starting a youth philanthropy project in our hometown of Bozeman, MT. Right away I was excited to be involved and work hands-on with the young adults in our community, helping them learn about our community’s needs and the grantmaking process.

Now, in my second year of our Youth Giving Project, I have some tips for those of you who, like me, may have limited experience mentoring youth. Heck, most days I feel like I’m their age myself! These may seem like simple tips—because they are. A youth philanthropy project should be the product of the participants, not the adults advising them.

Continue reading

My “Mission Sabbatical” and Why Your Foundation CEO Needs One Too

By Beth Gosch, The Western New York Foundation

I went on “sabbatical”! I was still working every day, but my wonderful board gave me “mission time.” Yes, you heard correctly. I was given 3 months to think about our foundation’s mission, its work, and our processes.

What exactly does this mean? Well, to start, we temporarily closed our online portal and skipped a grantmaking cycle so that I could focus my attention on executive matters like… what are we doing and how are we doing. I’m convinced that other foundations must follow suit, because it is so healthful to a single-staffed organization like mine.

I remember being at a session with a group of executive directors, who had been in their positions 10 years or longer, at a recent Exponent Philanthropy conference. I brought up the topic of “mission time” and asked how my colleagues were devoting the time to give it the attention it deserved. Peoples’ eyes popped, and the conversation was hot! We all talked about it as if it were a utopian concept—great but unattainable. Of course this led to conversation about burn-out and the question about how to re-energize ourselves and our work.

Continue reading