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The Philanthropic Initiative Inc.’s strategic philanthropy blog
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Leadership ( Category Archives )


Impact at First Love

By Stefan Lanfer, Knowledge Officer, Barr Foundation

There is a lively debate in the social sector about effectiveness. In April, Peter Karoff jumped in to debate with a post on this blog called, “What’s Going on Here?” Karoff argued for an approach that blends both art and science – one that depends on logic, left-brain analytics, and explicit outcomes, while remaining open to complexity, disruption, and emergence.

But what does that actually look like in practice?

One answer is the Barr Fellowship

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New Voices, Old Norms

By Amy Ellsworth and Lisa Spalding

We have all seen this scenario.  A foundation board of directors has been intact for a long time. This long-standing group has accumulated a set of comfortable norms: ways of communicating, ways of operating, assumptions about how things should be done, habitual ways of seeing things, doing things.  They have become entrenched in a shared culture.

What happens when a new board member joins the group, bringing fresh eyes?

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What Do Funders Themselves Give To?

While recently participating in the opening plenary of the annual conference of a state grantmakers association, I and others in the room were quite surprised by a question one brave funder posed to the panelists. “Given the economic crisis and reductions in foundation funding, small gifts and contributions are becoming more and more important to nonprofits,” she said, “I’d like to ask which groups you, personally, contribute to.” 

Dead silence.   

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Leadership at Every Level

All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas laying in the sun,
Talkin’ bout the things they would coulda shoulda done . . .
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas all ran away and hid
From one little Did.  

 - Shel Silverstein

 TPI has released a new issue of Initiatives, which looks at leadership from different perspectives.  The latest edition covers a range of themes and topics including corporate signature initiatives, cohort learning, developing young leaders, and leadership lessons from Chilean philanthropy.  Our hope is to spark some new ideas, or simply encourage a few moments of reflection on the potential roles we could all be playing.


Learning to Act Bigger and Better

In Monitor Institute’s What’s Next for Philanthropy, Fulton, Kasper and Kibbe explain how the growth of engaged donors and vehicles for giving, as wonderful as it is, has naturally increased fragmentation within philanthropy. With many more players comes many more “experiments” – but “the question is whether they will ever sum.”

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Community Leadership for Deeper Impact

With challenges increasing for communities, it’s exciting to see the ways in which community foundations express their leadership. I had the opportunity in early May to witness and be part of work the Santa Barbara Foundation is doing. The foundation has a long history of supporting the community but they are exploring new roles that have the potential to extend their reach and deepen their impact.

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Gates/Buffett Giving Pledge: Will They Take the Bait this Time?

This isn’t the first time that a rich person who has found enormous fulfillment in giving – who has truly drunk the Kool-Aid of joy that comes from living a life of big and noble purpose –  has challenged his/her peers to rise to the occasion.   

Andrew Carnegie did this a hundred years ago.  Ted Turner did it in ‘97.  I think it’s fair to say that both had some impact.  Not only did they put themselves out there as exemplars – replete with the warts, chutzpah and great aspirations – but their willingness to stand and be counted and make THE point are regularly referenced by today’s promoters of big giving.  

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Women and Philanthropic Leadership

I believe that women will in large part shape the future of philanthropy. Women are increasingly controlling the world’s wealth—in this country, they control over eighty percent of consumer spending, and the IRS reports that nearly half of the nation’s top wealth holders are now women. Thirty percent of working wives out-earn their spouses—double the rate of twenty years ago. 

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Filed under: Leadership



Can Corporate Philanthropies Lead?

In the midst of the mess in 2009, TPI undertook a qualitative research project to find out what corporate philanthropic leaders – past and present – were thinking and doing.  For the most part the responses were encouraging in spirit and the on-the-ground changes in practice were as you would expect. 

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Leadership in Family Philanthropy

Family foundations – they embody both the best and the worst of philanthropy.  I have been a passionate missionary for family philanthropy for nearly 20 years, stemming from both my positive experience with our own family foundation and from the opportunities I have had with my TPI colleagues to help other families take their giving to incredibly fulfilling and highly productive levels. 

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