In the premiere episode of What Gives? The Jewish Philanthropy Podcast from the Jewish Funders Network, our very own Lisa Eisen sat down with Andrés Spokoiny to discuss what she sees as today’s philanthropic best practices. Here are a few of the lessons she holds in mind for herself and our team:
1. Walk in the shoes of your grantees.
Knowing what it is like to work at a nonprofit organization is an important prerequisite to being a successful foundation professional. By drawing on previous experience in a nonprofit role, or by visiting grantees’ offices and worksites, we can gain a better understanding of their perspectives and challenges and be better supporters and partners. Approaching grantees with understanding, empathy and humility is a key ingredient in effective philanthropy.
2. Focus on connecting the dots.
Foundation professionals are in a unique position as we have a bird’s eye view of the needs of grantees, the needs of the field, the needs of our team and the needs of funders. Effective foundation professionals help build bridges between these different stakeholders and smooth the way for strategies that serve everyone’s interests and, most importantly, further the mission of the work.
3. Dream then do.
Lisa describes the most effective innovators today as visionaries who also know how to execute (or find the right people to help them do so). Funders today can learn from this model. Our work calls us to see beyond what exists and dream about what is possible. But a dream alone will not get us to where we want to go. We also need to be able to articulate our vision in a way that is compelling and galvanizing to people and then follow through on the execution strategy that will make our vision a reality.
4. Consider every tool in your toolbox.
Grantmaking is central to philanthropy but there are many other tools at philanthropists’ disposal as well. When it comes to tackling shared goals, we can convene foundations and organizations and spur partnerships and collaboration. We can also invest in thought leadership, research and evaluation, capacity-building assistance, leadership development and other endeavors that support the work of our grantees. “To be really effective at driving change, you have to use a lot more than just dollars,” says Lisa.
5. Work together.
Many of the worthiest goals are those that no one funder or organization can achieve alone. More and more, our ability to pursue our missions will rely on our willingness to collaborate and forge productive partnerships. Challenges such as building a Jewish community that reflects the full diversity of its members, advancing more informed, nuanced discourse about Israel, ensuring safe and respectful workplaces and engaging young Jews in social action and service will require all hands on deck.
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