Foundation Executives: Make This a Year You Invest in Your Leadership

By Leslie Sholl Jaffe, independent consultant 

For many years, Exponent Philanthropy has offered programming and resources geared to the unique needs of foundation executive directors. This spring, it will be my privilege to again serve as co-faculty for Exponent Philanthropy’s 2017 Master Juggler Executive Institute, a unique 6-month peer learning opportunity for those in the most senior staff role at their foundations. Learn more about the Master Juggler Executive Institute >>

Leadership development is key to creating long-term sustainable systems within our organizations, and executive directors are at the heart of these systems.

Having spent the first 15 years of my career in the for-profit world working in large corporations, I was witness to the tremendous investment made by organizations in their most valuable assets: their people, who received training and development relevant to their leadership positions.

Nonprofit leaders and foundation executive directors are no less talented than their counterparts in the for-profit world, and the demands placed on them are no less than the demands placed on other chief executives. The greatest differential is the amount of investment made in their ongoing leadership development.

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Show Me the Story: Data Visualization

By Ann K. Emery, Emery Analytics, LLC

Funders create charts and graphs—visualize their data—for different audiences and different purposes. Sometimes funders serve as unbiased disseminators of data as-is; other times they seek to tell a story—and fast. It’s not that one method of data visualization—as is vs. storytelling—is better or worse. But it is up to you to figure out when your viewers expect each style and then switch back and forth.

The as-is approach to data visualization is the easy one. You create a graph. You clean up the default settings a little. You select a color palette that matches your brand. (Default color palettes scream, I have no idea what I’m doing!) The storytelling approach can seem like the harder one. But it’s not impossible. It’s just a newer style for most of us.

Who are your viewers? What information do they need? Do they want to see the data presented as-is, or do they want you to interpret the data?

Storytelling Strategies to Consider for Your Graphs

Let’s take a look at some examples. The graphs on the left present the data as-is while the graphs on the right interpret the data. They illustrate how to use the following design strategies to tell a story with your data:

  • Descriptive titles
  • Descriptive subtitles
  • Annotations, which are call-out boxes that give viewers more background information about a specific data point or two
  • Color saturation

Example 1: A bar chart

The chart on the right uses a descriptive title and color saturation to show how chocolate is the preferred ice cream flavor.

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OnTopic: A Foundation Communications Tool

ontopic_mission_no-signBy Jenna Wachtmann, Ball Brothers Foundation

We’ve all been there: a mountain of proposals to read, voicemails blinking with messages, board meetings with packed agendas, and the frenzy to get grant checks out the door. In the midst of the commotion of day-to-day operations, it can be easy to lose sight of investing board and staff time in the deeper how’s and why’s of foundation work.

Amidst never ending to-do lists, how can we keep our perspectives centered on the core principles and values that drive our operations? How can we help ensure that board and staff members alike remain well-versed in the philosophies that inform decision making? How can we help to provide additional context for big discussions?

In 2015, Ball Brothers Foundation (and our 4-person staff) added a new “tool” to our communications toolbox to do just this. In addition to communicating with our 13-member board via quarterly newsletters, social media, and our board portal, we initiated a quarterly information piece in the form of a letter that we call “OnTopic.”

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Top 16 Posts of 2016

We thank all our readers and the many funders and colleagues who lent us their voices this year. We were pleased to do our part to inform and inspire your giving with these popular posts and many others.

The Case for Investing in Nonprofit Talent
Funders’ signals often encourage nonprofits to deemphasize staff development and stress programs and projects instead.

Changing the Culture of Philanthropy: Building a Movement to Fund Real Cost
Insufficient infrastructure and limited resources don’t lead to impact.

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.

Philanthropy Lessons: Who Knows More?
Hear from leading philanthropists about building respect and trusting the people working day in and day out on the complex issues we care about.

There’s No Such Thing as Nonprofit Sustainability…and What To Do About It (Part 1) and (Part 2)
What is the role of funders in the lively topic of sustainability in the nonprofit sector?

Impact Investing: Making the Case to Your Trustees
For foundations, the early stages of impact investing lie at the board level.

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Leveraging Social Media: To Infinity and Beyond

By Erika McDaniel, Glenmede, an Exponent Philanthropy Platinum Sustaining Partner

Tracking social media net­works and trends can be time-consuming even for experienced users, and likely more so for small-staffed organizations. Yet leveraging the right social media plat­forms in the right ways can lead to unprecedented levels of success. Initiatives by organizations such as the ALS Association (remember the “Ice Bucket Challenge”?), the Human Rights Campaign, and the Movember Foundation — each nimble enough to capitalize on expected and unexpected opportunities — have shown the degree to which social media campaigns can be powerful. 

Begin With the End: Determine Goals for Social Media

A social media strategy should be a component of the overall communications strategy, aligning an organization’s goals with tar­geted social media campaigns and frequent interactions. Common objectives include advocacy, information sharing, and recognizing philanthropic impact and milestone events. Different plat­forms bring distinct advantages based on particular goals. Twitter and Facebook can be useful to raise funds and promote activism, and YouTube and Vine tend to be effective for sharing successes and impact.

Last November, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnered with (RED) and mobile application Snapchat to raise awareness and funds to combat AIDS. For every Snapchat user who used one of the three “World AIDS Day” Geofilters in their “snaps,” the foundation donated $3 to (RED). This partnership and direct support for (RED) is part of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Initiative to “harness advances in science and technology to save lives.”

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5 Tips for New Foundation Staff

By Jenna Wachtmann, Ball Brothers Foundation

When I started my job as a program officer at Ball Brothers Foundation a little over two years ago, I knew I had a lot to learn. There were technical aspects of working for a foundation that I knew I’d need to master (grant files, legal dos and don’ts), and it was also important for me to quickly immerse myself in the culture of the foundation…the how and the why.

I was fortunate to join a family foundation staff who helped me to jump right in and quickly learn the ropes. As I reflect back on my experience, here are my top five tips for other new foundation staff members:

1. Meet grantees in person
Relationships are critically important to grantmaking. It’s one thing to blindly review a grant request, but it’s an entirely different thing to meet an organization’s leader in person, see an organization’s facilities, talk about an organization’s challenges and opportunities, and see first-hand the organization’s impact on those it serves.

Throughout my first few months on the job, I had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with dozens of our foundation’s grantees. Ultimately, these meetings formed the basis for relationships with grantees that are the bedrock of the work I do as a staff member.

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Ready to ACT? 3 Steps to Effective Foundation Communications

By Sara J. Redington and Danielle M. Reyes

An effective communications strategy can amplify a foundation’s impact by lifting up the successes of its grantees and other partners, elevating the causes that matter most to the organization, and connecting ideas, people, and resources around a common purpose.

Every foundation, regardless of size, can reap the rewards of integrating a strategic communications approach into its mission. Three steps can help foundations ACT on an impactful communications plan:

Align Goals (to the foundation’s mission and vision)

Clarify Audiences (the foundation seeks to engage)

Target Channels (that will connect with key stakeholders)

A – Align Goals. Although it’s tempting to jump directly into the tactics of communications (e.g., a certain social media platform, op-eds in the newspaper, or a press release), setting clear goals at the outset helps to ensure that each communications effort has a purpose and furthers the foundation’s mission and vision.

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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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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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Nobody’s (Philanthropically) Perfect

By Scott Brazda, The Stuller Family Foundation

It was one of those rare occasions in which our family actually made it to Sunday Mass early, and, as part of my reward for making it into church prior to 11 a.m., I was asked to fill in and serve as an usher, the main job being….

Passing the collection basket.

It had been years since I’d done this; usually I’m a lector or Eucharistic Minister, but, as I said, I probably hadn’t reached across people with a metal basket attached to a fairly long handle in well over a decade. Still, wanting to help out, I said “yes,” and immediately after our pastor’s sermon (don’t ask me his topic; I was too nervous about doing my offertory job), I processed up the center aisle of Holy Cross Catholic Church with basket in hand, bowed to our priest, turned to my right…

And immediately struck a woman in the first row with the collection basket. She smiled, I mouthed the words “sorry,” took a step back…

And struck a gentleman in the second row. Then I slapped a double on third row (hit a man on the wrist and his son on the arm) and grazed a family of three on the row after that. My holy path of destruction came to an end shortly after that, and at no time was there a need for immediate medical personnel.

Still, it wasn’t my finest hour, and you know what? That’s alright. Perfection wasn’t and isn’t required for passing the collection basket… Or for being involved in philanthropy.

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