Posted by Eileen Ellsworth
This is the third and final post constituting a review of a terrific recent book on effective philanthropy entitled “Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World” by Leslie R. Crutchfield, John V. Kania, and Mark R. Kramer (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print).
Practice #1: Advocate for Change: Most donors run from advocacy, not embrace it. There are many rational reasons for this. Advocacy can be risky. You can make enemies that you would rather not make in the process of advocating for a cause. Advocacy is time consuming. It takes communications skills that many donors do not think they have. And it takes focus, practice and (above all) persistence. But Crutchfield and her co-authors make a very compelling case that without advocacy, systemic change rarely happens. It takes a lot more than writing a check to a nonprofit to effect change in the social sector. Advocacy can make the difference.
Practice #2: Blend Profit with Purpose: This practice is particularly though not exclusively aimed at the capabilities of corporate donors. Sometimes the core business practices of a company, as opposed to the philanthropic donations they make, can be the greatest trick in their bag to effect social change. Social entrepreneurship that inures to the benefit of a previously disadvantaged group can end up developing markets and industries that complement a company’s business and add to its bottom line profits.
Practice #3: Forge Nonprofit Peer Networks: Nonprofits are a piece of the puzzle in the catalytic philanthropy model. In essence, they are service providers with their finger on the pulse of key community issues. By nature, they compete for resources with other similar (and even disparate) nonprofits. Together, however, they are a force that any donor who hopes to accomplish real, systemic change must engage. Catalytic donors not only convene nonprofits, they actually get them to become mutually accountable to each other and to the larger network. If anything good happens, it happens because of the larger network.
Practice #4: Empower the People: Here, the authors encourage every donor to find a way to listen to the people who the donor intends to benefit, that is, to the ultimate service recipients of the nonprofit grantees. To the extent there is a feedback loop on philanthropy, it usually comes from the nonprofit service provider back to the donor by way of an evaluation or a report six months to one year after the grant has been made. But before any donor can truly understand the impact of its philanthropy, a dialogue that includes the ultimate service recipients is absolutely necessary.
Practice #5: Lead Adaptively: Catalytic donors must be adaptive leaders who possess certain hallmark capabilities. They must be able to sense opportunities and changes in the dialogue, motivate key players, and avoid driving their own agenda to the detriment of others. They must be able to lead, motivate, negotiate, listen, and most of all adapt to the shifting landscape. The authors believe that examples of adaptive leadership are rare but they do exist, and stories of brilliant adaptive leadership on the part of individual donors are provided throughout the book.
Practice #6: Learn in Order to Change: Continuous learning is critical to catalytic philanthropy. Catalytic donors do not focus on classic evaluation tools such as grantee reports on service outputs. Rather, they are more interested in building a system that teaches the donor, their grantees, and the service recipients what is working and what is not working in real time. When this system emerges, catalytic donors begin to get critical feedback, continuously learning and adapting to what they learn, and ultimately inculcating a culture of learning in their organization. If you want to participate in social change, you must continuously learn.
Conclusion: Do More Than Give walks a donor through the stages of donor development, from (1) writing checks supporting many disparate causes, to (2) developing a strategic focus, to (3) becoming a catalyst for true change on a complex social issue. It is a useful and thought provoking work for every kind of donor, in any kind of community. If you are looking for a practical, step by step manual for how to become a more effective donor, this book has a very great deal to offer.