April 16th, 2012
The author, now a consultant to foundations and nonprofits, has held several positions in philanthropy, including executive vice president of a large California health foundation.
Spring is the season for the denizens of philanthropic foundations to gather at their traditional watering holes to meet and greet and share stories with one another. Last month, Grantmakers In Health assembled in sunny Baltimore, while Grantmakers for Effective Organizations braved somewhat more dicey weather conditions to meet in Seattle. This month, the grand Council on Foundations travels to Los Angeles for its annual conclave.
It’s traditional to invite inspiring speakers to address these assembled multitudes to encourage us to magnify and expand the impact of our work in philanthropy. Whether it’s collective impact or impact investing or whatever the big idea of the moment is, considerable buzz is generated, blog posts are published, tweets are tweeted, and then we return to our respective corners of the country. What’s waiting when we arrive home is often a pile of grant applications and files awaiting action. The pressure to meet the deadline for the next board meeting too often trumps our best intentions to apply those new ideas from the conferences to the way we do business.
Meanwhile, the context in which we operate is in chronic crisis mode. The economy may be slowly recovering, but the human toll of unemployment and foreclosure and lack of health insurance and underperforming schools continues to mount. Governments are stretched to the limit in their ability to maintain even basic services. To someone observing the situation in the United States from afar, it would be clear that this is not a time for business as usual. Read the rest of this entry »