I primarily serve donor families and donor groups, grantmakers, and the associations and advisors that serve them. I help them answer four essential questions:
1. For what purpose?
All philanthropy is rooted in human values and beliefs, even philanthropy based on multi-layered strategies and outcome measures. It helps to re-examine those values and beliefs over time. They define a culture of giving, and as Peter Drucker noted, culture eats strategy for breakfast. I help clients:
- Clarify values, beliefs, and assumptions about the best levers for getting things done.
- Balance differing purposes of legacy, vision, stakeholder involvement, and changing community needs and opportunities.
- Develop shared statements of values, vision, mission, and desired impact.
- Research and frame issues.
2. With which resources and vehicles?
I help clients explore how they might use all their capitals – financial, human, intellectual, and social – to make a difference. Those capitals can be deployed through an ever-evolving box of philanthropic vehicle and tools. I have experience with the pros and cons of community foundations, donor-advised funds, giving circles, private foundations, supporting organizations, awards and scholarships, collaboratives, participatory grantmaking programs, some gift planning instruments. and more.
3. With what plan of action?
I use a variety of design and planning tools to help clients develop, test, implement, and engage others in roadmaps for success. Example projects have included:
- Strategy and value proposition roadmaps – for specific programs/projects or whole organizations.
- Family philanthropy models – strategies, policies, and programs to govern a family’s philanthropy, engage members in meaningful ways, and plan for future generations.
- Grantmaking programs – internal priorities, external guidelines, application and RFP language, site visit and due diligence processes, committee review and evaluation tools.
- Initiatives and collaboratives – combining tools such as grants, investments, convening, communications, donor engagement, and public policy.
4. For what results and learning?
Every generous person and organization wants to have an impact and to improve over time. Simple evaluation and learning frameworks that can be implemented well often go a long way. I help clients:
- Learn from many existing tools and philosophies for assessing the quality, effectiveness, and impact of organizations, collaboratives and networks, and socially-minded investments.
- Develop internal measures for quality and performance for philanthropy programs.
- Develop and facilitate site visits, retreats, learning circles, webinars, workshops, and more.
- American Endowment Foundation – I am a member of the Philanthropic Advisor Referral Program of this national, independent sponsor of donor advised funds.
- Ekstrom Alley Clontz & Associates – I am a part-time Senior Consultant with this strategic management consulting firm with deep experience in working with community foundations and their associations.
- Impact Finance Center – I am a Senior Advisor to this provider of impact investing research, education, and advisory services to philanthropists, foundations, family offices, and others.
- National Center for Family Philanthropy – I am a subscriber to NCFP’s resources and a Senior Program Consultant for its work with families and with community foundations.
Beliefs and Practices
Through my personal and professional experiences, I’ve developed these beliefs and practices which guide my work:
- Philanthropy is best defined, thanks to Robert Payton, as “voluntary action for the public good.” This big tent definition means that everyone is a philanthropist, not just those with bigger stacks of dollar bills, degrees, or paperwork. It includes evolving uses of time and talent online, impact investing, corporate responsibility, crowdfunding tools, and more.
- A wide variety of values and motivations, often unvoiced, drive the philanthropy of individuals, businesses, and grantmakers. I respect and celebrate that variety and meet people where they are in their own philanthropic journeys. I’ve successfully worked with donors and grantmakers from different generations and values sets, and with families and committees who are balancing multiple generations, motivations, and goals.
- Philanthropy should be purposeful and meaningful, but it doesn’t have be “strategic” as it is narrowly defined by some authors. I’ve seen effective, meaningful grantmaking based on simple plans and personal relationships, based on complex community change initiatives, and all points in between.
- There is no one right philanthropic tool. Each legal structure (or lack thereof) has its advantages and disadvantages. And each use of philanthropic resources – general operating grants, advocacy activities, screened investments, social networks, and more – can serve a useful purpose. I’ve been staff, incorporator, adviser, and/or donor of many tools, new and old, and can provide first-hand insights and connections to effective practices.
- Cash fuels social good, but doesn’t cause results. Real social good happens – and sustains – when people truly own the results and have the ability to attract and maintain the talent to achieve them. Successful philanthropy depends on networks of talented and passionate individuals – the staff of nonprofits and social enterprises, active and vocal citizens, engaged crowds of donors and advocates, parents and their children, and many others.