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.

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'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.

Philanthropy 2.0

I'm blogging live from the philathropy 2.0 event sponsored by the Case Foundation, EPIP, and 3rd Wave. Packed, hot, techie. About to break a sweat hot.

Just a quick observation. In today's session on faith and feminism, the director of the Women's Funding Network, Chris, pushed me to present my small group's discussion points. Although the rest of the group urged her to speak, she clearly indicated that she wanted me to present because I am an emerging voice in the feminist movement.

This is not the only time this has happened. Today, in the session I co-designed, Luz gave way to Charles and Trista to allow them airtime. This level of collegiality and respect for the voices of young people in philanthropy is new to me. Just by creating it as a focus area of the summit and by hearing leadership frame the conference on Sunday, people are already taking action.

We are not just here to learn, existing leadership is not just here to teach. It is an exchange.

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?