Posted by Eileen Ellsworth
This is the final post reviewing the book “Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Results” by Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman (PublicAffairs, 2011).
In the initial post about Give Smart we explored the three “terrible truths” of philanthropy, traps for the unwary, and the importance of defining values and beliefs. In the second post we examined determining what success looks like, emphasizing accountability, and investments of time, money and influence. Now we will continue with the final three major takeaways from this book:
7. What will it take to get the job done?
- Avoid the “nonprofit starvation cycle,” which begins with funders who have unrealistic expectations of what it actually costs to run a nonprofit. Over time, some funders expect nonprofits to do more and more with less and less, a sure formula for failure.
8. How do I work with grantees?
- Your ability to work effectively with your grantees is the key to lasting impact. Never forget that they are the ones with their figure on the pulse of the services, not you!
- There is an enormous power imbalance between funders and grantees that can set the stage for less than candid feedback. So it is important to nurture and develop open, trusting relationships with grantees in which real outcomes, for better or worse, can be shared, understood, and acted upon through a mutually supportive partnership.
- Strive to develop a shared definition of success. Perform rigorous due diligence to choose your nonprofit grantees well.
- There is a “cost of philanthropic capital” that is very high. Costs related to courting prospective funders, preparing and devising grant applications, complying with reporting, attending meetings, and otherwise doing business with philanthropists are high and can escalate out of control. Philanthropists unwittingly impose this cost. Donors need to remember that they are not owners with control, but financial intermediaries with an ability to exercise influence.
9. Am I getting better?
- This is a very important question to ask and one that is difficult to answer. Look honestly at the results and demand continuous improvement of yourself. Average results in philanthropy can be pretty low, so adopt an attitude of continuous learning and bring your grantees along on the journey with you!