I have a good friend who really wanted a job in philanthropy. When she finally got a position in philanthropy she promised that she wouldn't be like other Program Officer and constantly complain about how busy she was. She reasoned that this was the job that she wanted, busyness shouldn't be an issue. A few minutes after she told me this, I asked her how work was going. She sighed and said "busy".
There are many, many reasons why foundation staff are so busy, but I think that most of those reasons can be boiled down into a few self-created reasons.
- We don't delegate because someone might do it better than us. Fear of being replaceable is a very real but you are more likely to be replaced if you are running around like crazy, trying to be Wonder Woman, Martha Stewart and Michelle Obama rolled into one. None of us can do it alone. Let go a little bit.
- Foundations are process driven places and we often rely on lots of paperwork, rather than a little bit of good judgement to make grantmaking decisions. Maybe if we spent less time requesting duplicate copies of 990's and specialized logic models, we would have a clearer head to figure out if the program is actually a good idea.
- Foundation positions are seen as cushy jobs, so easy that anyone could do it. How hard could it be to give away money, they ask. Very hard actually, but I think many of us have internalized this criticism of the field and insist of telling everyone near and far how extraordinarily busy we are. Lest someone assume that we are expendable. Enough already.
I'm done with it all. I am the master of my outlook calendar and I have a lot of say in how my foundation interacts with grantees. I'm sick of us all being too busy to enjoy the richness of this work and the wonder of what generosity can do to strengthen communities. I'm declaring a moratorium on busyness. Who's with me?