What's your Platform?

During this election season, there is a lot of talk about political platforms but how much thinking have you done about your own platform to share ideas? Whether you are a program assistant at a community center or the CEO of a foundation, you probably have big ideas about how to solve the problems that you see in the world. If you didn't, you probably would have picked a different field to work in. The best idea for change in the world doesn't mean much if no one hears about it, except for you and your cat.

This idea of branding and building a platform for do gooders has been keeping me up at night. My greatest frustration is that all of the great marketing goes to the dumbest ideas, e.g. the marketing muscle that went into Snookie's book "It's a Shore Thing" (no link purposefully given because I am trying to save all of our brain cells). Where is that sort of marketing might when it comes to the recent college grad who is building a performance company to use improv to bring public policy ideas to life or the author who is breaking the mold on what a donor looks like or the organization that is building a nation-wide green economy by seeing residents of the inner-city as a solution, not the problem? Since they don't have million dollar marketing budgets and prime-time commercials, I thought it was time to build a do-it-yourself movement for good idea marketing. I've built a branding book of the month club to help all of us spend some extra time building our brand. Not so you can be the next reality tv star but  so your great ideas can get the light of day. Learn more here. 


Sean at Tactical Philanthropy has a great post today about knowledge management at Foundations. The cataloging and sharing of knowledge at Foundations has long been a problem but the folks at Meyer Memorial Trust have been tackling this head on. From Sean:

For some time now I’ve been talking about the need for large foundations to share their knowledge base with the general public. While some people have made this argument from the standpoint of obligations that foundations have to the public, I’ve thought that foundations will find that they are able to more effectively further their own mission by sharing their knowledge base. Since individuals give seven time more money each year than all the foundations in the country combined, it stands to reason that foundations who share their knowledge with the public might influence some of these vast flows of funding to support the mission of the foundations.

Recently the Meyer Memorial Trust, a $700 million+ foundation that has proven innovative in a number of ways, launched an attempt to share their knowledge base with anyone who is interested. The project is called connect+ipedia. Rather than explain the project myself, I asked Amy Sample Ward - Communications and Learning Associate at MMT and author of the foundation’s New Media Blog - to share her thoughts with Tactical Philanthropy. Read the rest here.

Knowledge Sharing in the Field

In my last post on advice to new foundation staff, I said that there isn’t a handbook that tells you how to be a good Program Officer, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of tools along the way that will make your job a lot clearer. One of this blog’s readers, Donald, suggested The Insider's Guide to GrantMaking by Joel Orosz as a good starting point for new grantmakers. I have found Grantcraft’s articles to be very useful as well.

There is a lot to be said for written resources but there are also the “unwritten” rules of grantmaking. These are the rules that exist in the heads of our boards and presidents. Rules in this category are things like “we don’t fund that type of organization”, or “we can only invest our endowment in traditional investments, not community development projects”. One of my purposes of creating this blog was to begin to bridge the generational gap that exists in the field of philanthropy. Part of that generational gap is the younger generation’s lack of experience doing the business of grantmaking. There is a lot that can be learned in this job by experiencing it firsthand. You make an unsuccessful grant, you learn from that experience and make a better grant next time. But another part of this gap is more experienced grantmakers not taking the time to share the lessons that they have learned. Until we learn as a field to share our lessons learned within our organizations, and more importantly throughout the field, we will never make true progress on the issues that are impacting our society.

First Time Visitor Guide

It can be a little bit overwhelming to visit a blog for the first time. On some blogs it may feel like you are entering mid-conversation. This guide is my attempt to help you get a sense of the topics that I include in my blog so that you can be an active participant in this small corner of the web.

Blog Description

This blog covers issues of generational change in the philanthropic sector and more broadly trends in philanthropy. This is a wide range of topics from how professional training programs in philanthropy are creating a younger applicant pool for foundation positions to how Google is revolutionizing the concept of philanthropy. We are in a unique period of time where baby boomers are retiring and Gen Xers have made it clear that they are not content with keeping the status quo in the nonprofit or foundation sectors. I believe we are in an important period of rapid evolution in the philanthropic field, which is very significant for a field has been traditionally stagnant (or based on years of history and tradition, depending on your perspective). I will use this blog to document that evolution.


Working at a Foundation can be very consuming work that narrows your focus to only the grant proposals that come across your desk. I write this blog because it expands my focus to trends that are larger than the community that I work in but that will have significant impact on that same community. It also helps me think through and learn about the topics that I write about. Interacting with readers and other bloggers about these topics really helps to expand and clarify my own thinking. I want your thoughts about these issues as well. The real benefit of reading about topics on the web is the blurred line between audience and author and the real exchange of knowledge that happens when many people provide their perspectives. Comments are very much welcome.

Now that I’ve introduced myself, why don’t you briefly introduce yourself in the comments area below. Who are you, do you work in the philanthropic sector, and why are you interested in trends in philanthropy?