Bringing Youth Philanthropy Home

By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

In the fall of 2015, after three years sponsoring Youth Philanthropy Connect (YPC) during events across the country, Foundant brought the youth philanthropy movement home to Bozeman, Montana. A partnership with our local Bozeman Area Community Foundation (BACF) and Bozeman Youth Initiative (BYI) allowed us to offer a grantmaking program to local youth ages 13–18, the Youth Giving Project. Foundant supported the program financially, BACF offered expertise and community connections, and BYI added youth development experience to the mix.

Part of our goal in starting the Youth Giving Project was to use the knowledge we’d gained from our work with YPC to jump-start our own project, while also keeping our eyes on lessons we learned along the way that we could then share with others.

Ask your community

Asking questions is the first, and probably most important, step we took in creating our program. Asking questions offers not only the opportunity to establish need but also opens doors you might not have known were there. Talking with constituents of your program and your potential grants can shed light on needs, confirm (or, in some cases, debunk) your assumptions of what the community will support, and ultimately save you time on adjustments or corrections later on. This initial outreach is also your first step in creating partnerships that can help with your ongoing effort and offer the expertise you might need as you move forward.

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Lending Support: Keeping Your End Users in Mind

By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

Support, aid, assist, champion, encourage… however you put it, to support = to help. This is a subject I’m pretty passionate about. In fact, exceptional client service and support is our top priority here at Foundant, and we hire employees with this in mind. We can always train someone to use our grantmaking software, but it takes an ingrained sense of integrity for someone to truly “get” what it means to offer support that’s second to none.

But effective support doesn’t just live in the technology industry. Any organization can benefit from listening to their end user’s experience, asking how they can do better, making themselves available through the easiest means possible, and more. In the philanthropic sector, improving your level of support might mean saving valuable minutes, hours, or days for a nonprofit with limited resources.

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From Our Work With 1,000 Funders, Here Are Three Tips for Measuring Impact

By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

There is no doubt that measuring impact is the hottest trend in philanthropy today. How can our organization track the outcomes our grants are having? How can we track more useful information to make better decisions?

At Foundant, we hear iterations of these questions regularly.

From working with almost 1,000 grantmakers, we’ve identified some steps you can take to make this process more consistent and accurate, and to build commitment within your organization and among your grantees.

Step one: Alignment means everyone understands the plan

Probably the biggest challenge to ensure success in measuring results is getting everyone on the same page and doing things the same way. To be successful:

  • The board needs to agree on what the organization is trying to accomplish.
  • The staff needs to be consistent in how they accept and manage grantee reports.
  • The grantees need to understand why and how this data needs to be reported accurately.

Easier said than done! Fortunately, there are tools out there to help. Exponent Philanthropy has many resources available, including a great tool called the 10-Minute Impact Assessment to use with your board. Foundation Center also has several resources available to help you and your grantees define an impact strategy.

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The Buying Season

sticky-notes-to-do-listBy Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

Well, it’s that season again! People are breaking out their checkbooks and making resolutions for the new year. I know it sounds like I’m talking about the holidays, but I am actually talking about the end-of-year technology purchasing season.

I have been in the technology industry for most of my career and have always been surprised by the number of new purchases made in December. We thought it may be different serving the grantmaking industry, but it isn’t. The primary reason people buy in December is a function of their organization’s budget. Typically they are spending leftover budget or dipping into next year’s funds for a purchase they have been wanting all year.

So, rather than fight the trend, let me offer some advice to help make your new year happy and keep your buyer’s remorse to a minimum.

Are you spending leftover budget?

If you find yourself in a position to use up budget at year end, here are some tips, keeping in mind that this situation often holds the most risk for both the consumer and the vendor.

  • First, don’t make impulse purchases. If you are using leftover budget for small hardware upgrades or for a solution you have had your eye on all year, great. But if the primary goal is to use up your budget by year end, you may be disappointed in the new year.
  • Second, stop thinking about the budget, and don’t let the vendor focus on it either. Never tell a vendor you are using up end-of-year budget. This will often make them focus on helping you spend your money instead of solving your business problem. Start at the beginning of the purchase process. You can do it quickly, but any discussions internally or with vendors should be based on the problem you are using this excess budget to solve, not the budget itself.
  • Third, keep in mind: Just because you have extra money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the best deal. Make sure prospective vendors take you seriously.

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The Attitude, and What We Can Learn From Funders Who Possess It

By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

one-plus-oneAt Foundant, we are fortunate to work with many grantmakers of different geographies, sizes, areas of interest, and grantmaking styles. Yet, the vast majority share a similar trait. They view their responsibility as maximizing the impact their philanthropic assets will have today and in the future. This perspective fuels their passion, and it is tangible. Around our office, we call it “The Attitude,” and we purposely search out these types of organizations as clients.

Here’s some of what we mean by “The Attitude” and what we can all learn from the funders who possess it.

Focus on collaboration, not directives.

Foundant, in general, does not work with the world’s biggest grantmakers. Instead, most of our clients are constrained by their staff size and rely heavily on grantees and nonprofits as the experts within their communities or focus areas. Due to this reliance, our clients end up fostering a more collaborative relationship with their grantees. They rely on them for resources, information, and expertise. Our clients tend to consider their grantees as partners, in the truest sense of the word. The resulting relationships end up being stronger than the traditional funder–nonprofit relationship, and typical power dynamics are less of an issue. The payback is more truthful, collaborative interactions with their grantees.

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Eyeing Trends in Grantmaking: Youth Engagement

By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

One of the most satisfying and exciting opportunities we have at Foundant Technologies is to spot and highlight growing trends.

One of the trends we see in our work with over 600 grantmakers is the involvement of youth (ages 8+) during the grantmaking process. These young people represent the future of grantmaking, and their generation’s view of philanthropy is sure to influence the entire charitable community.

We think it’s important not only to pay attention to this trend of youth grantmaking, but also to invest in the development of these young philanthropists.  As a result, for the past several years, Foundant has sponsored efforts to engage next gen members in philanthropy. We are proud to have been part of this exciting evolution in the field.

Consider what involving youth could mean for your giving. Think about how you might benefit from a different perspective when evaluating your processes or reconsidering your current funding focus. A young voice can spotlight old habits by asking questions or making suggestions. Youth will also provide insight into how the younger generation views common problems. For example, who better than young people who spend their days immersed in education to provide a unique and grounded perspective to grantmakers in education? Finally, the energy and enthusiasm youth bring to this work are contagious. They put in tremendous effort and thought even for grants many consider small; to them, $1,000 is indeed life changing.

More often than not, youth approach philanthropy differently than adults. When you involve them, you can expect a more hands-on approach. The younger generation expects a relationship with their causes. This relationship, most likely, is as simple as following them via social media, but they want to hear the stories of the people they are helping. Most youth programs we have seen include some type of volunteerism as well.

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How to Make Big Data Relevant and Useful

By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies

Many common themes in philanthropy today revolve around the promises of “Big Data.” Grantmakers are continually called upon to be more transparent and to share their data, but many have become cynical as past data projects failed more than a few times due to incomplete, inaccurate, or outdated data. A misunderstanding regarding how their data will be used has also contributed to the wariness many grantmakers have regarding sharing data.

We believe three critical requirements have been missing among failed data initiatives: first, a reliable and distinct benefit for those who share data, and an understanding of how it can and will be used; second, an easy way to share data; and third, data that is up-to-date and accurate.

Grants management solutions have a unique and important role to play in helping data initiatives succeed.

  • By allowing grantseeking organizations to regularly use and update their data during their normal grant cycle, inaccurate or outdated data is eliminated.

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