Voices from the Field Posts

The Stifler Family Foundation shares their story at the National Forum on Family Philanthropy

Posted on October 28, 2015

On October 14, 2015 at the National Forum on Family Philanthropy in Seattle, WA, Larry Stifler and Mary McFadden, founders of the Stifler Family Foundation, reflect on how their past opportunities influenced their generous giving now. Listen to their story here and follow the National Center for Family Philanthropy on StoryCorps.me.

The best mistake we ever made: Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation

Posted by Kathleen Odne , Karen Green and Jenifer Getz on October 28, 2015

A sure-fire indicator that we all make mistakes was the capacity crowd at the National Forum on Family Philanthropy workshop in Seattle entitled, “The Best Mistakes We Ever Made.” Using a rapid-fire format, each of ten speakers took three minutes to share a mistake they made in their family philanthropy experience. To set the context, each speaker explained the goal and framework by responding to, “What were you trying to do”? Next they explained, “What happened that was unexpected – in other words, what went wrong?” Finally, and most importantly, we asked the mistake-makers to share, “What did you learn from your mistake?” In other words, how did the foundation changes its practices as a result?

Expanding your comfort zone: Managing risk

Posted by John Bare on September 24, 2015

As I sit here writing about risk, the date at the bottom of my laptop screen – September 11 – is a jarring reminder that risk analysis is both futile and indispensable. It’s futile if we use risk analysis to predict the future. Or come to believe that the act of reflection itself inoculates us against harm. So goes the temptation: Now that we have completed this risk analysis, what could go wrong?

Leveraging social sector leadership: Opportunities for family philanthropy

Posted by Lori Bartczak and Nora Silver on September 24, 2015

While the connection between strong leadership and effective organizations may seem obvious, navigating the variety of ways grantmakers can support leadership can seem overwhelming. In GEO’s recent publication, Leveraging Social Sector Leadership, the authors present research that lifts up what social sector leaders say they need to be successful and how grantmakers can support those needs.

What funders should know in addressing the refugee crisis

Posted by Anna R. Hurt on September 24, 2015

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy hosted “The European Refugee Crisis: How Funders Can Help,” a webinar, on Sept. 15. Panelists were Bob Kitchen, International Rescue Committee; Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR; Ed Cain, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; and Michael Fields, Xylem Watermark. Panelists discussed how funders should approach the European refugee situation and the closely linked humanitarian crisis in Syria to include long-­‐term partnerships with nongovernmental organizations and targeted funding to root problems, such as development.

A journey with young philanthropists from the Andrus family: Working with the next gen to animate the principles of social justice

Posted by Alyson Wise on August 25, 2015

On a sunny summer Saturday morning, seven college-aged youth trickled into a collaboration space at the offices of the Surdna Foundation and the Andrus Family Fund to commence the yearlong Board Executives in Training Program (BETS). The organization’s commitment to this work was a long-standing pursuit of the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program (AFPP); for almost fifteen years, it had implemented innovative, inclusive, and flexible programing to engage family members of all ages and interests to get involved in the family’s philanthropies and in public service. BETS itself, had been facilitated previously for four cohorts of youth interested in learning more about the sector and the family legacy.

Learning together with the Hilton Foundation

Posted by Heather Peeler on August 25, 2015

Have you ever been the one tasked with making the plans for a vacation with a large group of people? If so, you know what it is like to juggle many different schedules, preferences and opinions. However, when everyone puts the time and work in and shares the responsibility, it can be a wonderful experience. Coming together to accomplish something results in greater payoff than going at it solo. For the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the process of intentionally fostering learning with other organizations is paramount in its grantmaking for just this reason.

What's next for the Ford Foundation?

Posted by Darren Walker on July 23, 2015

Last fall, when I wrote about my first year on the job, I asked you all to do something that would be very helpful to me: Tell me the truth. That simple request drew more than 2,000 e-mails to my inbox. Some of them were profound and insightful. Others, lighthearted. But all of them were truthful. And I couldn’t be more grateful. In reading and reflecting on each and every response, I have become more aware of the ways in which we can improve our institution, and serve our mission. Indeed, these last 20-some months have been a transformative journey. Throughout, I have been challenged and humbled. In some cases, my beliefs were affirmed. In others, my assumptions were completely upended. In every instance, your constructive, and sometimes provocative, ideas have stirred, stimulated, and inspired.

Admitting Failure: Learning from mistakes in philanthropy

Posted by Bob Giloth on June 25, 2015

I was recently invited to speak about mistakes and learning in philanthropy at the Grants Managers Network's annual conference. My talk and panel presentation argued that admitting failures contributes to high-quality implementation, innovation of new strategies and improved governance and transparency. It’s good medicine that doesn’t always taste so good. Yet despite increasing philanthropic interest in mistakes and learning, many foundation staff still find it difficult to have conversations about mistakes...

Narrow and Deep

Posted by Jay Ruderman on June 25, 2015

I was once told that “when you’ve seen one foundation, you’ve seen one foundation.” Every foundation, public or private, is different. Each foundation is passionate about the issues they support but the way they “do business” differs vastly. Some foundations solicit applications, distribute funds and this is the extent of their involvement. Others are very private about their funding while some are very public. Since I became President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, I have pursued a path of going “narrow and deep” for the main issue we advocate for: the inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. Twenty percent of the U.S. population has some form of disability and it’s the only minority group almost all of us are guaranteed of joining at some point in our lives...

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