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Philanthropy's Reflective Practices

August 9, 2018

What do skilled philanthropy practitioners have in common? They are active learners about the fields, issues and places they support. That is their first discipline. And, they work at creating meaningful connections with grantees and others, especially when power imbalances, difficult conversations or differing viewpoints are at play. This is their second discipline. In this guide, you will find their stories about using four methods of reflective practice that can help you build what you bring to advancing change inside your foundation, with your grantees and other partners.

Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing

February 1, 2017

Coinciding with their announcement to earmark $100 MM to impact investing, the Surdna Foundation is publishing "Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing" as a way to encourage others to embrace the practice and help build the field. In it the foundation lays out its experience and provides a "road atlas" to help others engage in impact investing. This report focuses on how to organize a generative process to learn about and discuss impact investing, using our own experience as a guide. Existing resources in the field can provide the technical blueprints for making impact investments, so we do not seek to replace those resources. By openly sharing our experience, the Surdna Foundation instead hopes this report will serve as a case study for others in the philanthropic community who choose to explore impact investing tailored to their mission and goals, and that it will contribute to collective learning in the fields of mission-related investing and family philanthropy.There is no single right way to approach impact investing. But whatever course you follow, our hope is that the tools and tips we provide will help make the trip a rewarding and worthwhile one.

DIY Strategy Improvements

September 1, 2016

What comes after "strategic...?" If you said, "planning," you're not alone. And for many leaders of community foundations, especially small ones who don't have the time or money for a big process, anxiety is the feeling that follows. If that's the case, this guide is for you.It invites you to test-drive some activities to bring your current program, operations and  leadership strategies into focus before you decide whether to create a plan or not. It helps you discover ongoing strategic practices and decide whether to keep them or not. If you've already made a strategic plan, but it's languishing on a shelf, this guide will help you refresh it.PART A: Good Strategy Takes Practice (Not Just Planning)PART B: Do Your DiscoveryPART C: Jumpstart Your Strategy NarrativePART D: Bring It TogetherLooking To What's NextAs we introduced this guide, we noticed that describing each activity isn't the same as experiencing it as an engaged group. These can't be abstract, dispassionate assessments. We're seeking to create experiences. Similar to a strategic plan, it's important to try these activities -- not just read about them.This guide aims to guide a strategic process that emerges in an organic, inclusive way. Look through these activities and find something that you think speaks to a place where you're stuck in your foundation. Try it out. Where are you now, where are you stuck, where are some of the places where you might want to be?Start building strategy conversations and exercises into your existing meetings. Slowly, over time, try using different tools to get people more flexible about talking about strategy. And tell us how it's going, so that we can make this guide a living document, too.

The Effective Exit: Managing the End of a Funding Relationship

December 1, 2007

In grantmaking, is there such a thing as the good goodbye? Yes, say contributors to this guide, who have found ways to plan for exits upfront, clarify expectations with grantee organizations, and overcome the tensions that so often arise. Learn how to use the end of a funding relationship to boost a grantee's capacity, find new sources of support, and even multiply the value of the foundation's investment.HighlightsExit strategies used by four grantmakersLearning from spend down foundationsWhen you're the one who's exitingBreaking the ice with new fundersWhat's in the Guide?Exiting Is Normal: Saying goodbye to grantees is an inescapable part of the grantmaker's role. To do it well, our contributors told us, it's important to think upfront about an exit scenario that advances the aims of the grantee, the foundation, and the larger field. Put the exit on the table from the start, they said, and keep it there as a predictable phase in the funding relationship.Communicating Clearly with Grantees: For a grantee, the exit of a funder is always bad news, even when it's planned in advance. A grantmaker can set a positive tone by communicating consistently -- over the course of the grant and as the end approaches. When everyone at the foundation sends the same message, that's even better.Strengthening Grantees' Organizational Capacity: Grantmakers often find themselves thinking hard about the future of a grantee organization as an exit approaches, especially if the grantee is relatively new, small, or unstable. Here are some ways to help: talk regularly with grantees about their organizational capacity, suggest using consultants for business planning and other services, and provide grants to pay for those services.Helping Grantees Find New Funding: Ah, the bottom line. What grantees really want and need is help with fundraising. A matching or challenge grant can work well in the right situation, grantmakers said. Yet even without special funding, there are simple, powerful things you can do to put your grantees in touch with new funding prospects on a regular basis.Maximizing the Impact of the Grant: An exit can be an occasion to look back on what was accomplished, distill lessons, and disseminate what was learned. To let grantees do those things, some funders offer special support through transition or tie-off grants. Grantmakers' own efforts to strengthen the field can also extend the value of a foundation's investment.Special Cases: When the Exit Isn't Normal: And then there's the exit where thinking upfront just doesn't apply: the exit where something goes seriously wrong or the funder's own situation changes dramatically. These are the cases that test a grantmaker's poise, acumen, and ingenuity.

Personal Strategy: Mobilizing Your Self for Effective Grantmaking

May 1, 2005

Whether it's introducing new ideas into your foundation or offering constructive feedback to a grantee, grantmakers can develop personal strategies to meet the "soft" challenges of grantmaking. Effective personal strategy helps practitioners use their understanding of self and role - as learner, analyst, bridge builder - to manage the tensions that come with the job. In this guide, contributors discuss the elements of personal strategy and how it helps grantmakers to leverage their strengths in service to their objectives. The guide also explores why some grantmakers are able to think and work like "naturals" - and how the rest of us can emulate their style.HighlightsUnderstanding one's role and why it mattersThinking like a natural in difficult situationsReflective practice techniques for effectivenessWhat's in the Guide?Personal Strategy and Why It MattersThe Elements of Personal StrategyThinking Like a Natural: A FrameworkReflective Practice Techniques to Improve Effectiveness

Affordable Housing: The Years Ahead

August 1, 1989

Looks at trends over the past fifteen years that have contributed to a lack of safe affordable housing for low-income families, and describes public and private efforts to resolve the problem.