This article was originally published by NPQ online, on April 26, 2017,
small-foundation-big-results-grant-making/. Used with permission.
By Mark Gunther
Philanthropy often seems to be reinventing itself. Strategic plans are undertaken; old priorities get restated; new buzzwords develop. While there is an ongoing argument about how much this kind of churn may actually help the ultimate beneficiaries, a small foundation doesn’t often take the time or budget for that kind of contemplation. Yet small size can enable a certain flexibility and responsiveness that can drive change perhaps even more effectively than the most competent big budget efforts.
At the Eva Gunther Foundation (EGF), a public charity founded by my wife Anne Krantz and myself in 1999, the vision is to give other girls access to experiences similar to those Eva had. Many highly capable girls are financially unable to have life-broadening experiences after school or in the summer, and we wanted to make that possible for some teenage girls. We established two funds: The Program Grant funded scholarships to grantee programs, and the Fellowship allowed a girl nominated by a mentor or teacher to do something specific she wants to do but cannot afford.
This mission brought us into contact with the savvy and dedicated leaders of the many grassroots social service agencies that provide direct services to girls and young women. It was a good match. We wanted Eva’s love and passion—her presence—to infuse everything we did. We wanted relationships with our grantees (our trustees would make site visits, serving as informal program officers). We wanted the grant process to be easy. We wanted individual girls to be helped. Our communication was quite transparent regarding all of this, which was gratefully received by the agencies we supported. “I don’t have to explain, ‘Why Girls?’ to you,” we often were told. “You get it.” And we did. We got them, and they got us.
By Karen Graham, Idealware
Originally published by Idealware (March 2017)
Can grants managers play a role in helping nonprofits get the technology funding they need to be successful? I led a discussion on this topic yesterday at the PEAK Grantmaking (formerly Grants Managers Network) conference in Hollywood, California. The breakout session, “How To Spot the Missing Tech in Grant Proposals,” covered why and how technology often gets short changed, the planning knowledge and skill nonprofits need in order to thrive with technology, and what is needed for grantmakers to support nonprofits with technology.
I asked participants to share what challenges they have experienced in regard to supporting technology, what ideas they had for improving systems and practices, and what they needed in order to make this possible. Their responses were so thoughtful that I wanted to share them here.
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?
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:
- Mutually beneficial
- Relaxed not rushed
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Gwenn Gebhard, Luther I. Replogle Foundation
As a foundation, it can be difficult to find ways (beyond making grants) to support our grantees and, at the same time, improve their visibility in their communities and the wider world. With this challenge in mind, the foundation’s board of directors and I developed a two-pronged project inspired by a webinar I attended in September 2016.
The webinar was hosted by Foundant Technologies, a grants management software company (and our foundation’s vendor since 2009), and GuideStar, a nonprofit that manages public data on all nonprofits operating in the United States. Working together, Foundant and GuideStar developed software called GuideStar for Grant Applications to pull information from organizations’ GuideStar profiles into Foundant grant processes through web-based links. Keep in mind: Using GuideStar for Grant Applications requires nonprofits to complete their GuideStar profiles, funders to accept the data as a means of populating their grant applications, and software vendors to incorporate the technology into their solutions.
After discovering that only five of our 16 current Washington, DC grantees has developed a GuideStar profile, I decided that assistance could be very useful to them. Further research showed that in Minneapolis, one out of nine of the foundation’s grantees has a GuideStar profile. The story is slightly different in Chicago, where four out of six of our grantees has a GuideStar profile. None of our grantees anywhere has a Platinum profile, and only a few have Gold.
By Henry Berman, Exponent Philanthropy
Each quarter, I write to our member donors to pass along insights I gather in my dual role as Exponent Philanthropy member and CEO, and to provide a special window onto our activities. My most recent communication—sent last month—sparked many positive notes in return. I’m pleased to share it here with our broader community, and I encourage each of you to consider supporting Exponent Philanthropy.
In the wake of January’s inauguration, President Trump has quickly demonstrated his commitment to change. I’ve spoken with people across the political spectrum in the funding and nonprofit communities, and many have been uneasy at best in these early months of 2017. Although every administration and new Congress experience growing pains, business as usual is being redefined this year. Wherever you stand politically, change certainly is in the air.
Amid this year’s changes, I paused in my doctor’s waiting room recently, reading a brochure about new medical school graduates that referenced the Hippocratic Oath’s most famous line: First, do no harm. This triggered my thinking (and online exploring) to learn more about the oath.
I discovered first that Hippocrates didn’t include the well-known phrase in his oath, but in another of his works, Of the Epidemics; regardless of the source, the message is one that I believe aptly applies to all of us who make grants, share knowledge, convene stakeholders, and otherwise act in pursuit of our philanthropic missions.