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First Things First Seeks New CEO

Posted by on Sep 13, 2021 in Articles, Blog

First Things First Seeks New CEO

First Things First (FTF) is Arizona’s early childhood agency, committed to the healthy development and learning of young children from birth to age 5. FTF is seeking a dynamic, visionary leader capable of spearheading and managing this statewide early childhood organization with budgeted annual expenditures of about $150 million.  FTF has a staff of 160 professionals and more than 300 volunteers engaged across Arizona. The successful candidate may come from a host of backgrounds including health or policy organizations, foundations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and other sectors.  This candidate should be conversant in early childhood policy and practice but does not necessarily need to be an early childhood expert.  Demonstrated success in leading and managing a complex organization is essential, as are the collaborative and interpersonal skills to inspire and engage colleagues and partners in a diverse environment. See the full position description here.  Confidential inquiries from highly qualified candidates can be directed to Jeff Glebocki, Founder & Lead Advisor, Strategy + Action/Philanthropy, at jeff@strategyplusaction.com or 480.794.0871.   Strategy + Action/Philanthropy has been engaged by First Things First to assist in the search for their new CEO, in coordination with Colleen Neese at the Duffy...

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Stories From The Spend Down Journey

Posted by on May 14, 2021 in Articles, Blog

Stories From The Spend Down Journey

I’m very pleased to share this blog on “stories from the spend down journey” which I wrote for the National Center for Family Philanthropy (published April 21, 2021).To be or not to be?  More accurately, to spend down or to remain in perpetuity? Much has been written about the pros and cons of this existential inquiry in philanthropy. This article shares practical observations from the field about the strategies, tactics, and approaches that limited life foundations have used and guiding questions for families to consider in their own discussions. Be clear on the “why” of spending down It might seem like an obvious question with an obvious answer. But it’s really important to dig deep and surface the motivations behind your foundation’s decision to sunset. Articulating a shared understanding of the “why” will shape many, if not most, of the actions your foundation will make going forward. This shared agreement also provides a transparent context to frame discussions about differing perspectives which may arise about the “how” of your foundation’s spend down. Perhaps your founder(s) gave explicit directives or provided implicit permission to future generations on closing the foundation down. In other situations, family engagement or interest in the foundation may diminish to the degree that spending down becomes a desirable option. Sometimes, the mechanisms which generate the foundation’s assets are structured in such a way as to call the question about spend down, such as royalty payments or real estate holdings. Of course, spending down can also open the door to having a significant impact on priority issues and organizations your family and/or founders have cared about deeply. How might a significant gift impact a health or medical issue that is of particular importance to you? Are there organizations you have deep, trusting relationships with that would benefit from endowed positions or ongoing operating support through a designated fund? Might there be unique capital projects and naming opportunities to preserve the legacy of the foundation?  Is there a neighborhood or community that has special meaning to the foundation which concentrated support could make a lasting difference? Getting clear on the “why” may also reveal critical background details that aren’t as visible as one might think. One family foundation was funded by royalty payments on patents for products developed by the late founder.  As the expiration date on the patents—and the revenue streams—approached, the board chose to spend down. About a year after developing the sunset plan and timeline, the foundation’s attorney discovered another patent and revenue stream existed. Back to the drawing board for an updated plan! Develop a strategy and timeline to guide your decision making Embarking on your foundation’s spend down journey is unlike your usual body of grantmaking, management, and governance work. The choice to sunset affects virtually every decision in every aspect of the organization. There is, indeed, a finality ahead which calls for a different set of questions. Organizing a strategy to guide these deliberations takes much of the stress and the unknown out of the equation. Well-planned spend down strategies are often rooted in the foundation’s values and legacy. If the passions and priorities have not surfaced in determining the “why” of your decision to sunset, be intentional about exploring those and arriving at shared agreement with your board. Again, this provides the context for the “how” which the spend down strategy will articulate. Sunsetting your foundation is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime moment. Be as clear as possible on what you want to accomplish through this opportunity, and how you want to do that. Here are some of the guiding questions I’ve used to help family foundations shape their spend down strategies: How important is honoring the legacy of the founders, the family, and the foundation through the sunsetting, and why?What issues or problems do you want to prioritize to have a positive and long-lasting impact on?Are there particular communities, populations, or organizations you want to focus on? Why these?How will the world (or at least your corner of it) look differently as a result of your spend down strategy?What kind of grantmaking...

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5 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Give Money Away

Posted by on Feb 3, 2021 in Articles, Blog

5 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Give Money Away

What?  It’s hard to give money away?  That sounds preposterous, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, there are moments which complicate foundations’ abilities to provide funding.  Here are five real-life examples: Where’s Waldo?  On behalf of a foundation I work with, I attempted to contact the development director of a large nonprofit organization.  I was beyond flabbergasted to find the group’s website listed Staff names but no email addresses, just a phone number.  I called development and received a recording for an entirely different department.Funders – you aren’t off the hook either!  For all the current conversations about the importance of grantmaker “proximity” to the communities they serve, I still come across foundation websites which don’t provide Staff email addresses or just list a generic “info@” address.  The lost art of listening.  The movement to encourage funders to listen and learn before acting is getting much-needed attention.  Conversation remains a two-way street, though.  I’ve seen otherwise promising dialogue with grantmakers go sideways when fundraisers talk waaaay more than they listen. He said, she said.  Speaking of communications, it is never helpful for grantmakers to hear differing or inconsistent messages from the chief executive and the board chair of an organization. Whether the discussion is a formal presentation or an informal update, mixed signals from leadership raise more questions and unnecessary complications. Report?  What report?  It is common practice for foundation grant agreements to include a request for progress reports from those partners they support.  Grant letters usually state explicitly or implicitly that the acceptance of funding is also acceptance of the request for progress reports. These report requirements – hopefully more streamlined during the current crisis and into the future – help fulfill the funder’s fiduciary responsibilities on how charitable dollars are used.  The reports also keep Staff and Boards apprised of what progress, learning and challenges their partners have had – and provide the ongoing opportunity to strengthen a mutually beneficial relationship.In short, Party A is giving money to Party B with the understanding Party B will be thoughtful enough to let Party A know what they’ve done with those dollars.  Not honoring this simple agreement undermines trust and relationships. I’ll get right back to you on that.  Grantmakers get well-deserved criticism when going overboard in asking for gobs of details and data in their proposal review process. (Are you really going to read all that material and analyze all that information?)  What happens when the reverse occurs?  Such as a foundation that approves a grant contingent on receiving a two-page project description before cutting the grant check – then two friendly email reminders and six weeks later didn’t receive the two-pager? As I observed, it really can be hard giving money...

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Bill Gates has his 2020 List, Here’s Mine

Posted by on Dec 16, 2020 in Articles, Blog

A quiet pause on a summertime mountain bike ride (Phoenix, AZ) Bill Gates recently shared his list of “5 good books for a lousy year.” As I did in 2019, I’d like to share my own year-end list, albeit of a different kind. I wear many hats in my work with foundations and nonprofits – thought-partner, planner, facilitator, coach and organizational “therapist.”  The connecting thread is helping people and organizations pursue change – first in themselves and their organizations, then in their work out in the world. The challenges of this past year, and yes, the opportunities, seemingly drew me to more pointed quotes and to those reflective of the change happening all around us.  For me, each speaks truth.  I hope you’ll find some valuable insights as well. Enjoy! We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them. Abigail Adams If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own. Chinua Achebe Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.  Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. Rumi One sometimes finds what one is not looking for. Alexander Fleming Leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand.* John Ortberg, Jr God may not play dice but he enjoys a good round of Trivial Pursuit every now and again. Federico Fellini *Tip of the hat to Marc Ross Manashil for getting this quote on my radar. Most of the other quotes were featured in The Economist’s Espresso morning...

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Bettering Political Civil Discourse in Your Community

Posted by on Nov 17, 2020 in Articles, Blog

Bettering Political Civil Discourse in Your Community

This blog was originally posted by Exponent Philanthropy on November 9, 2020. No matter your political or philosophical orientation, nor how you voted in the election, we can likely agree on the continued polarization and erosion of civil discourse in our country. There are any number of factors exacerbating our inability to talk to one another in a civil way: political upheaval, increased racial tensions, the economic and social impact of the pandemic, social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and the list goes on. It’s easy to despair and watch from the sidelines. But there are ongoing efforts to counterbalance the trend. And philanthropy can cultivate a more civil dialogue in our communities and country. This August, Exponent Philanthropy convened a Virtual Roundtable for members to explore their concerns and ideas, and to tap into the wisdom of two national thought-leaders working in this field: Malka Ranjana Kopell, co-founder and CEO of Civity; and Jonathan Lever, chief operating officer and EVP of the Fetzer Institute. I interviewed Malka and Jonathan following the roundtable to delve deeper into how lean funders can better influence political civil discourse.  Would you talk about some of the ways you encourage people and communities to move toward a more civil discourse with each other?   Malka and Jonathan: Civity’s mission is to create a culture of relationships based on respect and empathy across difference. The Fetzer Institute’s mission is to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. We both fundamentally understand polarization as a heart-level challenge. Too many of us have closed and hardened our hearts toward those on the other side. Too often, we engage them not as fellow citizens who deserve our respect and solidarity, but as hostile strangers to be met with suspicion and fear. In retreating to our tribal bunkers, we have lost any sense of a shared moral vision for what America ought to be. The loss of solidarity has pushed us into a zero-sum us versus them politics. It’s increasingly destroying our national capacity for a strong, common action to address any of our social pathologies. We also see political polarization as connected to deeper, long-standing challenges, particularly those of racism and marginalization based on other social dividing lines that create winners and losers. These power differences: race, class and immigration status to name a few, are baked into American society and have been since the county’s founding. The twin pandemics of 2020 — the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on underserved and BIPOC communities, and the recent killings of African Americans by police — have further exposed these power differences. And they underlie and complicate the red-blue divide. But we can’t address one without addressing the others. Fortunately, this bridging is possible. While efforts to address isolation and polarization in America can seem overwhelming, the exhausted majority has more in common than we may realize. According to the Hidden Tribes Report, more than three in four Americans “believe that our differences aren’t so great that we can’t work together.” And Stanford University psychologist Jamil Zaki says empathy is a skill anybody can learn — and it is catching, in The War for Kindness. As we explore the never-ending work of profoundly opening our hearts, we realize that healthy encounters across difference have the power to transform how we view and treat others. This is supported by Putnam and Campbell’s findings in American Grace: associating with someone across difference increases your attraction to not only that person, but their entire identity group. Similarly, the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey found that despite deep differences, a high level of trust and goodwill emerges when college students have positive and proactive encounters with “others.” Individual connections also have powerful, systemwide effects. Our culture is based on and created by relationships. Transforming those relationships can eventually transform the system. Not all super spreading is bad!  Can you share a few examples of communities successfully improving the state of civil dialogue?   Jonathan: Within Fetzer’s own staff community, we gather weekly (now via Zoom) for one and a half...

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