Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Letting Non-Profits Act Like Businesses: One Foundation’s Brave Act of Leadership

Letting Non-Profits Act Like Businesses: One Foundation’s Brave Act of Leadership
Posted by eJP | September 21, 2009 | Category: Opinion | 1 comment

by Dan Pallotta

Last week the Boston Foundation unveiled major changes in its grantmaking strategy and announced that “the most dramatic change is a shift of emphasis to unrestricted operating support.” You’re not hallucinating, and it’s not a typo. As if the emphasis on operating support were not jaw-dropping enough, it’s going to be unrestricted. This is not a narrow experiment. It involves the “majority of the Boston Foundation’s competitive grants.” And this is not a bunch of well-intentioned, innovative MBAs starting a little experimental social venture fund. It’s a major institutional funder with a $700 million endowment that was founded in 1915.

Hallelujah. This is the nonprofit sector equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. I didn’t cheer. I just kept saying over and over “The Red Sox just won the World Series” to convince myself that it was real. It was the same experience yesterday. I’m an optimist, but even I am so used to the hyper-incrementalism that defines the sector that I found myself in a state of disbelief.

The Foundation went ever further. They will start making larger grants, they are removing term limits so grants can be made over five years or longer, and they are removing deadlines so nonprofits can operate on their own timelines. The White House could learn a thing or two about hope and change from these people.

The announcement is striking and material on several levels.

First, it is an important voice making a declaration that real change will come from strengthening the capacity of good organizations; that as good as it may feel to fund programs, the greatest good can be achieved by funding organizations. Our mantra on poverty for decades has been, “instead of giving a man a fish, give him a fishing rod and teach him to fish.” But the institutional funding approach with nonprofits has been to deny fishing rods and hand out fish for a year or two and then tell the organizations to go find some new fish somewhere else. The Boston Foundation has said in no uncertain terms that it is in the fishing rod business.

Second, in a culture where a misinformed donating public has a prejudice against “overhead,” it recognizes the unique responsibility that institutional funders who know better have to act on their better knowledge.

Third, in a relationship where for years nonprofit organizations have been saying that what they need most is general operating support, it demonstrates respect, listening, empathy, understanding, and real commitment to their success.

Fourth, in a sector desperate for encouragement it demonstrates the ability of boldness and daring to excite and inspire, and it demonstrates the value of excitement and inspiration themselves. This is a new day, and the dawn of a new day moves people.

Fifth, it shows that the oldest institutions can rise up and surprise us. That disrupts the syndrome of predictability that so suffocates our sense of possibility.

Sixth, it is a demonstration of trust.

Last and most important, it is a demonstration of brave leadership. It challenges all major players to follow suit – not only to rewrite funding strategies, but to be bold, to lead, and to surprise. Today let us salute the Boston Foundation. They have just changed the world.

Dan Pallotta is a leading expert on innovation in the nonprofit sector and a pioneering social entrepreneur. He is the founder of Pallotta TeamWorks, which invented the multiday AIDSRides and Breast Cancer 3-Days. He is the author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential.

Reprinted, with permission, from Harvard Business Publishing.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Activating Positivity

This is an excerpt from Christina Merkley's latest newsletter. She is responding to a question about how to activate positivity at the beginning of the day.

"As for a script in the morning … Louise Hay has a lovely affirmation in the back of her famous little book called Heal Your Body (the mental causes for physical illness and the metaphysical way to overcome them). I read this script upon waking for years –starting back when I first launched my own business in San Francisco. She calls it ‘Loving Treatment’.

“DEEP AT THE CENTER OF MY BEING, there is an infinite well of love. I now allow this love to flow to the surface. It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness, my very being, and radiates out from me in all directions and returns to me multiplied. The more love I use and give, the more I have to give, the supply is endless. The use of love makes ME FEEL GOOD, it is an expression of my inner joy. I love myself, therefore I take loving care of my body. I lovingly feed it nourishing foods and beverages, I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly responds to me with vibrant health and energy. I love myself; therefore, I provide for myself a comfortable home, one that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in. I fill the rooms with the vibration of love so that all who enter, myself included, will feel this love and be nourished by it.”

I love myself; therefore, I work at a job that I truly enjoy doing, one that uses my creative talents and abilities, working with and for people that I love and that love me, and earning a good income. I love myself; therefore, I behave and think in a loving way to all people, for I know that that which I give out returns to me multiplied. I only attract loving people in my world, for they are a mirror of what I am. I love myself; therefore, I forgive and totally release the past and all past experiences and I am free. I love myself, therefore, I live totally in the now, experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future is bright and joyous and secure, for I am a beloved child of the universe and the universe lovingly takes care of me now and forever more. And, so it is.” -Louise Hay

Christina Merkley, "The SHIFT-IT Coach" and creator of the SHIFT-IT System®, is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Visual Thinking and Law of Attraction techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and spiritual-based businesses to create what you really want. And, trains other helping professionals in the visual way of working. For more information visit: www.shift-it-coach.com