Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nonprofits and Foundations

This blog post is just to point out two very good columns on the relationships between nonprofit organizations and foundations--from the nonprofit perspective. [Gee, I really hope some foundation folks read this.]

We Really Need to Talk
First, in the February issue of Fast Company (yes that entrepreneurship and "new economy" magazine has some good nonprofit stuff in it.) Nancy Lublin has a great column that is "an open letter to her powerful 'friends' at foundations." (You can see the whole column here.) She lists a few things her "friends" need to stop doing "which would vastly improve our relationship."
  1. Stop thinking you know everything
  2. Stop mistaking marketing for overhead--and stop hating overhead"
  3. Stop funding redundancy
  4. Stop thinking that newer is better.
In return, Nancy promises "to stop calling 'for advice' or 'just to check in' when that's never the point of the conversation. We both know what I really want: your check."

I urge you to read the whole column. Some great things to think about for foundation staff and for nonprofit staff.

Unreachable Stars
If you subscribe to the Nonprofit Quarterly, check out the last page of the current issue (Winter 2009). There is a great column on a current trend in the foundation world to adopt broad reaching goals like "Ending poverty in ten years and changing the face of philanthropy" (that's just a paraphrase but if you've worked with many foundations, you've run into that kind of goal). The column by Phil Antrhop starts with the lyrics of The Impossible Dream from Man of LaMancha.

The column points out that many of these broad foundation goals plan on achieving them in 10 years. It further notes that all the board members at the foundation and most of the management at the foundation will have left long before the 10 years are up. Where's the accountability in that set-up?

I really wanted to include a link to the article but it is behind a pay-wall. So the Nonprofit Quarterly wants to impact the nonprofit world but puts their material behind a pay-wall. Isn't that a little counter productive?