Do More than Be Glad: The Pollyana Principles Author, Hildy Gottlieb

Hildy Gottlieb's new book, The Pollyanna Principles, draws from her experience as an educator and consultant to address a real challenge for charities and other organizations working in the community—regardless of the quality of work, most efforts don’t realize significant improvement in a community’s quality of life. Check out the first part of a two-part interview we had with her.

Read More

'Millennials and the Moment'

Entering the 'Millennials and the Moment' session, I scanned the room and noticed a much wider and well-distributed range of generations in the crowd. After a few days milling around in the Gaylord, I realized that I now recognized many in the once-indiscernible herd of philanthropists.

The panelists Cassie, Eddie, Andrew, and Carmen maturely reflected on their leadership experiences. Particularly striking points below:

  • Cassie started Campus Climate Challenge and hosted a conference of over 6,000 environmentalists featuring Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
  • Eddie started an organization for improvement of public housing in Oregon - at the age of twenty.
  • Andrew, a young City Councilperson from Tallahassee, wanted more opportunity to network with other young elected officials so he started an organization that now serves over 400 young elected officials.
  • Carmen is the Vice President of USSA a student-led and -run organization that advocates for educational equality.

Other than talking about their specific experiences, the students made the salient point that ours is the most diverse generation in US history and that it is up to us to reverse the polarization perpetuated by past generations.

My favorite raving lunatic

Timothy Ferris has become my favorite lunatic. Tim is the author of the book The 4-Hour Workweek, which is a book about how to escape the 9 to 5 so that you can travel the world and become a national champion in Chinese kick boxing or learn to scuba dive in Hawaii. You might find it a little bit strange that someone who loves philanthropy so much that she stays up late at night and writes a blog about her field would enjoy a book about how to escape the work world. While I do sometimes dream about leaving my overflowing inbox behind so that I can go on safari in Kenya, I am much more interested in his tips for increasing your effectiveness by focusing on the essential. Tim talks about how your work expands to fill the amount of time that you have to complete it. I got to live this lesson recently when my son got the flu and I was out of the office for 3 days. When I returned I had a full inbox and a pile of work to do. Somehow 3 days worth of work was completed in an afternoon.

Focusing on the important lets you spend time doing the parts of your job that you love, ignoring the parts that are unnecessary (do you really need to get a CNN update every half an hour?), and having more time with the people and things that you care about outside of the work world. Viva la work-balance!

Be Present

I had the opportunity to listen to a very eye opening presentation by Cynthia Rivera Weissblum, President and CEO of the Edwin Gould Foundation recently at a leadership summit. She made a great point about the importance of being present to become a successful leader. There are always a million tasks to do and lots of internal and external "chatter" that are a distraction from what is truly important. When you can distance yourself from that "organizational noise", you can become a thought leader that can see the forest through the trees and can add value to your organization. She described a coupling of a love for the greater good and a desire to be operationally sound as the ideal combination for a successful leader. Here are other pieces of advice from Cynthia:

  • If you have defined the end game of your position as "doing everything", you have already lost the battle.
  • When you are trying to create organizational efficiencies, collect data to show that there is a better way to do things. Data + Humility=Success.
  • Don't fear change, that fear is just a reminder that you need to look at the issue from multiple angles.
  • Bring consensus by learning to bring the best thinking of an entire group together.

How to be your Program Officer's BFF

New Voices of Philanthropy is participating in this month’s giving carnival hosted by Arlene Spencer's Seeking Grant Money Today blog. The topic this month is “ Are relationships everything in Philanthropy, today?” Since I’m writing from the foundation perspective, my opinion is that it isn’t everything, but it is the most important thing. Fabulous program ideas will get you far, but a good relationship with your program officer will help move that idea forward.

A positive relationship with your program officer is hard to come by and even harder to maintain. This difficulty has nothing to do with your stunning personality or their interest in getting to know you and your organization better, it is just a byproduct of the great number of relationships that they have to maintain. Developing this relationship is important because your program officer needs to be your interpreter and advocate throughout the entire grantmaking process. These tips may not have you and your program officer braiding each others’ hair and you still may not be in their cell phone’s five favorite people but it will help make the grant process more civilized.

1) Turn in your application at least one month before the stated deadline. There is nothing that builds a good grantmaking relationship quite like an early application. Early applications give a program officer time to fully read and analyze the proposal and call with any follow-up that may be needed to make a good decision about the fit of this proposal into the foundation’s guidelines. Grant application that comes in five minutes before the deadline don’t get that personal touch. Do everyone a favor and make a fake grant calendar for yourself that gets applications in early enough to start a dialogue with the funder.
2) Don’t stretch the limits of creativity. Great grantwriters can make any program fit within the guidelines of a foundation. Fundraising for a humane society and the foundation you are prospecting only supports healthy family development? Dogs are like part of the family! Fundraising for a junior high band trip to Germany and the foundation only supports mental health programming? Vacations are the best medicine and have you ever met a junior high student that wouldn’t benefit from a little bit of therapy? This kind of creative writing only wastes valuable time that could be used cultivating a relationship with a funder that is a better fit.
3) Be honest. When asked about weaknesses in programming or audit numbers that don’t add up, be honest. Foundations don’t expect your organization to be perfect but they do want you to be able to identify and work on weaknesses. By pretending that those weaknesses don’t exist, you create a feeling of mistrust that is hard to overcome.
4) Ask for feedback on unsuccessful proposals. Getting a “no” is hard but by being dedicated to continuing a relationship you learn important things that may strengthen your next application to that foundation. Maybe your proposal was denied because they wanted to see a partnership with a local school district or maybe it was denied because they no longer fund youth development. You might also find out that the “no” was because they had run out of money for this fiscal year but if you reapplied in two months, your proposal would be a good fit.

What other tips would you give to grantseekers to develop a positive relationship with their PO?

Everything I needed to know about being a program officer, I learned in Kindergarten

Adapted from "All I really need to know I learned from Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum.

These are the things I've learned:

  • Share everything- Share your successes and mistakes with others from the field, it makes us all better grantmakers.
  • Play fair- Don't use the unequal power dynamics with grantees to your advantage, treat people fairly and even the playing field.
  • Say sorry when you have hurt somebody- Give grantees an explaination when they have gone through your complicated grantmaking process and still receive a no for their funding request, people deserve to know why and it's your job to tell them honestly and kindly.
  • Live a balanced life- learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some- Take time to really enjoy the community that you life in, not just as a funder but as a citizen too.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that- sometimes the best programs can't be explained with a logic model, be open to the wonder of that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the styrofoam cup- they all die. So do we- Leave a legacy by the quality of work that you do in the community.

What other lessons did you learn in kindergarten that are applicable to the work that you do today?

Advice from another new voice

Tidy Sum left a comment on the article that I wrote a while back on Advice for those new to the foundation field. His or her advice was so spot on that I thought I would share it with the rest of the readers.

  • Tune in to Foundation Power Hour. Learn about foundation and nonprofit governance and learn to sketch out the power dynamics among staff and the board.
  • Find out where the bucks stop. Learn about the financial side of the field. Ask where the money comes from and how it is invested. It may intrigue you or it may make you barf.
  • Enjoy wildlife. Get a field guide to spotting sacred cows in the field. Then shoot them.
  • Moisturize. Buy some lotion cause you will need thick skin to survive.
  • Listen up. Talk for 10 percent of the time and listen for 90% of the time. We all talk to much.
  • Holla back. Defy expectations. Return your damn phone calls and emails to applicants.
  • Celebrate and laugh once in awhile. You get to meet some of the smartest people who are changing the world. You lucky dawg.

Asking for your cake ala mode and other life lessons

Last week I was at a dinner for a conference that I was attending at a nice restaurant. It was one of those things where you order off the two choices on the menu and the meals get brought out on a great swarm of activity. At the end of the meal we had a choice of chocolate or rum cake, the desserts were brought out and our table started eating the delicious cakes when someone noticed a discrepancy at the table. Someone was eating a chocolate cake but there was something else on his cream. Not just regular ice cream but the delicious homemade kind that makes your plain old piece of chocolate cake turn into a symphony in your mouth. Ice cream wasn't on our menu, so how did this man conduct what amounted to a conference dessert
coup d'état? He said he asked for his dessert ala mode. As we all sat in dumbfounded silence, I realized our collective disappointment was about more than a naked cake, it was about our failure to negotiate a better deal. How many times are we given two options and we confine our selves to those choices? There is a whole suger filled world out there and we are missing it because we don't look outside of what is presented. So the next time you are offered dry chicken or fish at a conference, ask for the chef to whip up a fresh vegetarian option or if you get two mediocre grant proposals, search for something better. You can have your cake ala mode too, you just need to ask.

Respecting your elders and conducting their performance reviews

During my first attempt at managing an older worker, I was rebuffed shortly after the interview. The interviewee called me back and said that she would have remove herself from consideration from the position because she couldn’t see herself being supervised by someone my age (I was 25 at the time). Despite the fact that she wasn’t my top candidate (and was only a few years older than me), my confidence was still shaken. Would I ever be taken seriously or would everyone see me as a fresh out of grad school rookie, even though I had more than 10 years of nonprofit employment experience at that point? I gave myself a little pep talk and offered the position to my 1st choice, who was older than me and more experienced in development but was looking for a flexible position, where she could use her fantastic grantwriting skills and not work 60 hours a week as a Director of Development. Once I fully understood that I had the skills needed to manage the department and could build on the expertise of my new hire to build our internal capability, I was able to be less self conscious about the age thing. Here are some tips if you are managing someone older than you:

Don’t broadcast your age. Be proud of what you have accomplished in a short period of time but there is no need to rub your age in people’s faces or say things like “wow, you're 2 years older than my mom.” It lowers team moral and doesn’t make you look like an emerging leader, it makes you look like a snotty kid.

Be open minded and willing to listen to the ideas of your older workers. Instead of thinking of people as “stuck in their ways”, give them the benefit of the doubt and be willing to try things their way.

Find a mentor who has supervised older staff. Learn from their successes and mistakes so your staff don’t have to be you guinea pigs. Developing good management skills in general will help you better manage staff across multiple generations.

What other pieces of advice would you give?

Worst mistakes of first-time managers

I have become a big fan of Penelope Trunk who is the blogger behind the Brazen Careerist. She writes career advice for Gen X and I think her advice for first time managers is right on track, hope you enjoy it.

4 worst mistakes of a first-time manager by Penelope Trunk

First-time managers are generally nightmares to work for. They are people who got promoted by doing a non-management job well, and in fact they probably have little experience in management. Here are four of the mistakes that will undermine a new manager the fastest.

1. Focusing on tasks instead of people.
Before you were a manger, your number one job was to accomplish tasks. You were someone with skills to get something done. Maybe media buying, or programming, or selling. Now your number one job is to help other people to accomplish the tasks in an outstanding way.

Sure, you’ll have tasks, too. As a manager you’ll have weekly reports, budgets, planning. But your tasks are secondary to helping other people to do their tasks. Your job as manager is to get the best work from the people you manage. The measure of how well you’re doing as a manager is how well each individual on your team performs.

Ideally, you should be able to show each person you manage how to see themselves differently so that they are able to produce at a higher level than they ever imagined. For one person this will mean you need to teach organization skills. For another person, you will help her discover what she loves to do and then set her up doing it for you. Each person wants something, and you need to find out what that is. Then help them get it.

In return, your employees will do great work for you. This level of management is superior to task-management; helping people perform at their best impacts the quality of your team’s work as opposed to just getting the work done.

2. Being slow to transition.
Moving into any new position requires that you get rid of the stuff from your old position. This means delegating. It means getting over the idea that you were indispensable on any of your old teams. You can’t do you new job well if you’re still doing your old job.

Delegating your old job should take three days. You find people who are taking a step up when they accept pieces of your old job so that they are excited. You give them an explanation of how to do it and tell them where to go when they have questions.

You are going to tell me that one day is not enough, that you have a very complicated job. But think of it this way: If you died today, your job would be delegated in a couple of days.

Delegating is not enough, though. You have to stop caring. If you are no longer on a project because you got a promotion, then you have to stop obsessing about how the project is doing.
Remember how quickly the girl who dumped you hooked up with her next-door neighbor? You need to move that fast, too.

3. Forgetting to manage up.
Managing up means steering your team to hit goals that the people above you care about. Figure out what matters to your boss, and your boss’s boss, and make that stuff matter to you, too, because you can only impress your boss with your management skill if you are accomplishing things she cares about.

And be loud about your accomplishments. Set measurable goals for yourself and let people above you know that you’re meeting them.

Do this it right off the bat. People’s perceptions of you as a manager will be made during your very first actions. That saying, “People judge you in the first two minutes they meet you,” is true for management, too. So give people reason right away to think you’re doing a good job.

4. Talking more than listening.
My sister-in-law, Rachel, has been a manager for a while. But she just accepted a position where she is managing three times the number of people she had been managing. Her first step was to go on a sort of listening tour of the organization. She had lunch with people to find out what matters to them, she sat in on groups and even visited some people at home, all in the name of figuring out what matters to whom, and how she should set up goals for herself.

Consider your own listening tour as soon as you start in a new position. After all, there’s no way to figure out what people want without getting them talking. And the most annoying thing about any manager – new or seasoned – is when they just won’t shut up.

Advice to Those Working with New Foundation Staff- Part 2

This is Part 2 of my post of ways that long-term staff can support new foundation staff members.

Explain the unwritten rules of your foundation- Each foundation has rules about how the work is done, what types of organizations it will and will not support, and how its staff should dress and behave. Knowing these rules can be the difference between succeeding and failing at an organization, so share this knowledge with new staff. But if you can’t explain the purpose or benefit of some these unwritten rules, maybe its time to reconsider them.
Help new staff find mentors within and outside of your organization- Mentors are an invaluable source of information about organizational culture and can act as a guide as new staff learn about the politics of an organization.
Be open to suggestions about how technology can improve staff efficiency- Many young foundation staff have needed to be skilled at using computers since elementary school. Technology becomes second nature for many of these staff members and this can be a great opportunity to use this staff member as a guinea pig to try new technologies.

Having a diverse foundation staff, in terms of age, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, and opinion on the local sports team is what creates an effective organization. You are better able to make decisions about impacting your local community if your staff truly reflects the diversity of your community. The true benefit of a multi-generational workforce is the variety of skills and experiences that individuals bring to the job. Don’t lose that benefit by trying to make new staff assimilate to the culture of the organizations’ generational majority.

Advice to Those Working with New Foundation Staff- Part 1

One of my most read posts is Advice to Those New to the Foundation Field. The purpose of that post was to encourage new foundation staff to take control of their personal development. I have gotten lots of questions from long-term staff that want to support young foundation staff but aren’t sure how. I hope the following tips will be helpful:

Set the bar high- Don’t assume that young foundation staff members will be intimidated by the volume of work at a foundation. Since many can remember the recent experience of juggling multiple priorities and assignments in college or graduate school, the often frantic pace of foundation work isn’t as overwhelming as you may assume. When you give these staff members tough assignments, hide your surprise when they meet or exceed those expectations.
Use new staff members as an opportunity to identify problematic or confusing operational policies- If you have been at a foundation for a long time, you develop ways to work around parts of the bureaucracy of a foundation that don’t make sense. When you have new staff, pay attention to the questions that they ask about your process, they may see opportunities for improvement that can be missed if you have been working around the system for a long time.
Provide plenty of training opportunities- It is expense to fully train a new staff member but the quality of their initial training will determine how effective they will be for the rest of their time at your organization. Important training opportunities for program officers include: ethics, analyzing financial statements, legal basics, and any program specific areas that the staff person will be responsible for.
Have your new staff members map out their long-term career goals- Find ways to support those long term goals and you will have a motivated member of your team that will stretch themselves to help the organization achieve its goals.
Use the addition of a new staff person as an opportunity to re-institute a culture learning for all members of your staff- Communities change, tools to do your work changes, and the practices of other foundations change. As new staff members are learning about all of these new areas take it as an opportunity to help long-term staff stay current on new trends in the field.

More tips to come on this topic on Thursday.

Advice to Those New to the Foundation Field

I have just completed my first year as a program officer at a community foundation. Being a new Foundation staff member is really uncharted territory. There isn’t a handbook that tells you how to be an effective program officer and everyone seems to approach his or her position from a different perspective. I’ve made it my personal mission to try to demystify the foundation field for new foundation staff, prospective foundation staff, grant seekers, and most importantly for myself. In that vein, I have developed 6 pieces of advice for those new to the field that I hope makes your entrance into the foundation field a little less hazy.

  1. Don’t believe the hype- Positions at foundations are few and far between. There was probably a very talented applicant pool for your position and you must be very intelligent and knowledgeable about the nonprofit sector since you were chosen for your position. With that said I can pretty much guarantee that you are not as smart, funny, or as handsome (or pretty) as nonprofit and foundation staff alike may have you believe. Your program ideas are not suddenly brilliant, you are just sharing these ideas with a captive audience. False flattery is an unfortunate by-product of being in a position where you can make decisions about large amounts of money. You can handle this newfound access to wealth with grace and wisdom or you can act like a lottery winner. Please choose wisely.
  2. Treat grantees with the respect and reverence that they deserve- You get to spend your days with grantees and possible grantees that are the best and brightest of the nonprofit sector. They would make a lot more money if they used their immense talents working in the for profit sector but they are so passionate about the mission of their organizations that they choose to work for. Count yourself among the lucky few that get to spend most of your workday with passionate, idealistic people.
  3. Expand your professional network- The best ideas come from having a diverse professional network of people that have different opinions and experiences than you do. Join an affinity group of a different racial group, program area, or geographic interest to learn new approaches to issues that you face in your position.
  4. Get some support- This may be a circle of friends that you can bounce ideas off of, an affinity group like Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, which is designed to provide support and guidance to people new to the field of philanthropy, or a kickball team, where you can burn off some of the stress of your position. Figure out what kind of support would work the best for you and seek it out. If you can’t find that network of support, create your own.
  5. Never stop learning- The nonprofits that you interact with depend on your access to best practices in the field to improve their own work. Thoroughly read the reports from previous grantees. Are there lessons learned that might be applicable to other organizations that you are working with? Then share that information, within the limits of confidentiality. Scrupulously read about areas that your foundation makes grants in. Read about cities or states with similar demographics as your foundation’s geographic area. Are there any best practices from other locations that might be useful for the work that your foundation or grantees are doing?
  6. Extend your hand to those that are interested in the field- When you were thinking about entering the field of philanthropy you either had a wonderful mentor that guided you through the process or you wish that you had. Be that mentor to someone else. There are many students and professionals that just need a few minutes of your time to figure out if the foundation field is a good fit for them. Be open to informational interviews, speaking at sessions about the work of program officers, or being a mentor informally or through a program at your alma mater. You may have also noticed that since you have entered the field you now know about position opening that you never would have heard about when you weren’t in the field. Share those opportunities with your network of people that are interested in starting a career in philanthropy.

Now it’s your turn. What advice would you give to new foundation staff?