Monday, October 15, 2007

Visit the October 2007 Giving Carnival! Click Here...

Read, respond to, and discuss what others who care about philanthropy think...

Thank you for joining in the October 2007 Giving Carnival! Thank you, too, to Sean Stannard-Stockton (Giving Carnival founder) and Gayle Roberts (September 2007 Giving Carnival host) for your help!

We need a host for the November 2007 Giving Carnival. Please let me know at aspencer at thegrantplant dot com if you are interested in hosting! [Oct. 22 UPDATE: We do have a host for November! Thank you, Maya Norton of The New Jew Philanthropy blog!]

This months question for discussion was " is often stated that 'relationships are everything' in philanthropy. The topic for this Giving Carnival is... Are relationships "everything" in philanthropy, today? Here are some questions to get you thinking: If philanthropic relationships are not everything, what is critical to philanthropy's modern success? Who do relationships in philanthropy form between today, compared to the past? Where is the innovation, in developing relationships in philanthropy? How do modern relationships in philanthropy begin; and how are they maintained? Who or what do they matter for? What are philanthropic relationships' effects on the causes they are supposed to serve? Is there oversight of relationships in philanthropy, and if so, what are the checks and balances on them? Are there times that relations should be broken, and if so, in what situations? Etc. etc. You do not have to follow my thread of questions. Feel free to respond in your own format."

Read, below, after all of the responses for more information.

[Congratulations to Myrlia Purcell and her family, author of Look to the Stars on their brand new family addition! We understand why you couldn't join us in this Giving Carnival!]

Here are the October 2007 Giving Carnival responses:

1. Jim Fruchterman, author of Beneblog, replied "Maybe I should respond to your 10/15 summary. I usually avoid open ended questions: easier to follow when people show what they're interested in."

Jim, Fair enough! If you want to respond further after reading my thoughts, and others', here; please do! - Arlene

2. Phil Cubeta, author of GiftHub, posted "Are Relationships Everything in Philanthropy"

3. Gayle Roberts, author of Fundraising for Nonprofits, posted "Be generous and raise money"

4. Holden Karnofsky, co-author of The GiveWell blog, posted "Great people"

5. Sean Stannard-Stockton, author of Tactical Philanthropy, posted "The Giving Carnival"

6. Jeff Brooks, author of Donorpowerblog, posted "The Differences Between Bad and Good Fundraising"

7. Jeremy Gregg, author of The Raiser's Razor, posted "Are relationships "everything" in philanthropy today?"

8. Trista Harris, Program Officer of The Saint Paul Foundation (Saint Paul, MN) and author of New Voices of Philanthropy, posted "How to be your Program Officer's BFF" (love the title)

9. Katya Andresen, author of Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog, posted "10 ways to win a corporate partner"

10. Andrea Learned, author of Learned On Women, responded...

From the women's market perspective, relationships are a very big part of philanthropy. Their process of giving will be very similar to their path to buying - in that it will not necessarily be linear: "ask for money, then get a check." Instead, their giving path will be more holistic and connection-seeking. Women will need to be drawn in, shown around and given time to decide. They may donate time or talent for years before finally getting to the financial end of things. Serve them in this way and you will not necessarily alienate the male donors - but you will more likely have raised the bar on donor experience for EVERYONE. I am admittedly not expert on philanthropy from all angles, but I am an expert on how women buy ( If women are core to your audience - what I've shared here may shed some light or start you on a path to thinking more about your particular women's market.

11. Carrie Rothburd, Principal of Grant Central Station, responded...

Are relationships "everything" in philanthropy, today?

I recently began to work with a new client, the founder of a community nonprofit dedicated to youth development through sports. This client is a well-known sports celebrity with charisma to burn. For the first four years of his nonprofit’s existence, from 2003 to 2007, my client took charge of writing grant proposals himself. He’d call and ask to meet with a foundation director, or he’d get to know the guy in the locker room of the local athletic club, and they’d chat. He’d then ask or be invited to submit a proposal. Most of his efforts, while technically a little rough or brief, received funding.

His experience has made me think again about what it means to talk about relationships and philanthropy. As a grant writer, I have spent years fussing over goals and objectives, plans of action, and evaluation plans intended to produce and measure change. I expect to write proposals that stand on their own merit—proposals that do not rely upon a prior relationship to convince someone to fund them.

So what does my client’s experience have to say about relationships and philanthropy? And what role, if any, do relationships play in proposal writing?

The funders that my client courted often promised him dollars before he’d even submitted a proposal. “Get something to me in writing that says what you need.” They’d formed their impression of his qualifications, the needs his nonprofit met, and the match between their mission and his. They didn’t want to know step-by-step how he would accomplish his plan or how he would measure for outcomes. They simply trusted him. He’d send the letter they’d asked for, and a check was in the mail.

My client hired me after being turned down for a larger capacity-building proposal. Yet sometimes he and I go head to head over my attempts to craft more thorough proposal requests for funding for his organization. He doesn’t understand why I need to include so much information or plan so far in advance when he has been able to walk in and sweep up funding all for a handshake. He doesn’t understand why we have to detail how he will spend every dollar.

I tell him it’s all about establishing trust, and that there’s more than one way to do this. Every solicitation is an attempt to initiate a relationship and succeeds or fails to the extent that it establishes a connection to its targeted funder. He has done a great job convincing others to believe in him so far. But in order to move his nonprofit beyond those handshake $5K, $10K, and even $25K gifts into the realm of the$100K-and-above grant, he will need to submit proposals that have the power to convince even an uninitiated and uncourted funder of the strengths of his organization and his proposed project.

Relationships still exist in the realm of bigger proposals, but in a more attenuated way than they do when grantor and grantee know each other. The funder must rely on my words on the page to assess qualifications, need, and fit. As the organization asks for more, it all must show more in terms of internal capacity, project plans, methods, projected outcomes, and measures. Good feelings alone or a shared social circle may not be sufficient to seal the deal.

12. Richard Marker, author of Wise Philanthropy, responded...


I have noticed that most of those who are involved in "the Giving Carnival"are fundraisers; I am exclusively on the other side - so my comments reflect that perspective.

1. Relationships do not take the place of content. When I was CEO of a large foundation, and now, when I advise funders on their giving strategies, I am often "cultivated" by those who want money. Nothing wrong with that, of course, since that is the job of fundraisers - except - that they often bypass the step to find out if I am interested or if the area they are looking for funding for fits within the focus of anyone I know. It is as if relationship is everything. So those who argue that relationship is everything are simply wrong.

2. That comment is particularly true for foundations and those funders who have an articulated set of priorities. It is less true with individual funders whose focus and priorities may be less established or rigorous and who therefore may be open to hearing about areas where they may never have funded before.

3. Even here, though, many younger funders are becoming more sophisticated and rigorous. Whatever accountability may mean, they want it; whatever transparency may mean, they want it; whatever outcomes may mean, they want it.

4. Therefore, the development of a trusting relationship does matter at the time when consideration is being given for funding. If relationship means trust, competence, transparency, reliability, and honesty, then it does matter. It is not the relationship of "cultivation", invitations, mailings, etc., but of demonstrated reliability. It means that the organization does not overreach or overstate; it means that the organization presents an appropriate informant when the funder wants information; it means that there is demonstrable reason why this potential gift is relevant from this donor at this time; it means that the difference between personal relationship and funding relationship is clear and not crossed. When that kind of relationship is genuinely established, it can mean a great deal over time.

5. Having said all of this, it should be clear that the responsibility for a trusting and responsible relationship goes both ways. Funders have a responsibility not to take advantage, mislead, lead-on, entice, or otherwise deal other than straight with those who want funds. In my work as an advisor and educator, I emphasize the ethics of being a responsible funder. Any relationship has, by definition, two sides. If we, as funders, demand that those who seek funds from us act appropriately, we can do no less in our dealings with them. But more about this in another posting.. or on my blog.

13. My response is...
I decided to devise an exercise for myself in the interest of creating a more diverse spectrum of answers to this month’s Giving Carnival question. Instead of responding to the question whether “relationships really are ‘everything’ in philanthropy” as a consulting grant writer; I’m responding to it as a donor.

My being a grant writer aside, I have and continue to involve myself with some causes as a donor; giving to non profit organizations that I determine are impacting the issues that concern me.

I grew up hiking and getting into the wilderness often. Our backyard was a greenbelt, and I got to know old growth cedar trees, coyotes, garter snakes, grey squirrels, and many various birds that coexisted with my family and me, in our neighborhood. It was transitioning, then, from rural to suburban. After seeing the Tutankhamen exhibit tour in the early ‘80’s I was so mystified by wondering who the person or people were that made his funerary mask, that the curiosity fueled my studying archaeology in college and graduate school. After college, one of my best friends was diagnosed at a young age with Stage IV endometrial cancer, and sadly lost her fight, three years later. I adopted one of my kitties from the King County Animal Control shelter, and my other kitty was adopted from a veterinarian nurse who saved him from raccoons.

All of these personal experiences and more have shaped my world view. They’ve also helped shape what concerns me within my community; the environment, urban development, culture, history, the fight against cancer, animal welfare and protection, and more.

So, my giving came from experiences with places, people, or things that I came to value; and experiences with loved ones, and these are relationships, for sure. These were relationships with things or people for the sake of the experience, friendship, or love – they were not random professional and autonomous relations with representatives of non profit organizations working on the cause or issue, as if I was aimlessly shooting checks out of my checking account mindlessly. And giving because a financial or estate planner suggests that I set aside 1% of my estate for their pet cause or non profit is mindless.

I care about these issues or causes and believe that the non profit sector can produce real solutions. This is the other reason that I donate.

For donors, a relationship with a non profit organization’s development staff member is not ‘everything’ in philanthropy. Donors’ relationships with their world can lead to success in philanthropy, if they believe that non profits exist that can help the issues or causes that they want to contribute towards.

My values, my experiences, my priorities, even my ethics are what direct my giving. They inform my philanthropy. Out of my concerns for my community, I research various organizations’ who are working on my favorite causes and issues. I consider their reputations, track records, and successes in managing themselves. Then, I donate based on what I think is important, and where I see my money will really effect change for the better. I like results.

More on the Giving Carnival...

The Giving Carnival is a group blog session that invites anyone interested in philanthropy to respond to a questions, monthly. Each month the Giving Carnival is hosted by someone new. All hosts and respondents are volunteers. The idea is to begin discussions, increase dialogue, and thereby building community among those who are interested in philanthropy and occasionally go online. Do you write a blog on a topic related to philanthropy? If so, you could host. You select and share the question for everyone to ponder and write about. Then, on the deadline that you choose, you post on your blog all of the comments, emails, and links that you receive in response. It increases the number of viewers who get to your site. (Can't blame me for selling the host position - we need hosts!) Also, as host, you 'meet' a lot of great people interested in philanthropy.

Want more details? The October 2007 Giving Carnival details are available at my Come Blog About Philanthropy With Us post. Check it out.

If you are reading this post after the October 2007 group blog session, and you'd like to know who is currently hosting and how to get the details for the current Giving Carnival group blog session (we'd love to have you); contact me by either posting your request as a comment, below, or email me; and I'll get you the information.

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