Transparency Talk

Category: "Human Resources" (13 posts)

Glasspockets Find: Beyond the Grant Dollars, Hewlett Foundation Explains Tools Available to Support Grantees
January 17, 2012

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

As we continue to showcase examples of foundations' transparency, Paul Brest, retiring president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, provides a nice window into the thinking behind the foundation's work. Grants aren't the only way the foundation seeks to solve social and environmental problems. In Beyond the Grant Dollars, his opening essay of the recently released 2010 Annual Report, Brest pulls back the curtain to explain the added value of the program staff in magnifying and maximizing impact.

He writes, "The Beyond the Grant Dollars project has two primary objectives:

  • To improve the Foundation staff's and Board's decisions about the mix of strategies and the allocation of financial and human resources that can best achieve our goals.
  • To determine the skills, experience, and other qualities we should look for in new staff members and ways to improve the development of Foundation program staff."

Brest does a fine job detailing a number of ways that funders like the Hewlett Foundation employ staff to get the biggest bang for the buck, all the while trying to keep their eyes on the prize. With solid examples from the foundation's own experience as a highly engaged philanthropist, he thoughtfully presents the rationale for the various tactics mobilized for mission achievement. And, as in the best instances of lessons learned, he does not only discuss successes. In his own words, "potentially high returns also involves a significant risk of failure."

Finally, Brest mentions the desire to capture the substantive knowledge that program staff acquire in their fields and in their various activities and disseminate it for internal use as well as externally "when it has the potential to inform nonprofit organizations, foundations, and others."

View the President's Statement and the full Annual Report, or see past Annual Reports dating back to 1966.

-- Mark Foley

Glasspockets Find: Transparent Leadership Change
September 20, 2011

California Wellness FoundationBecause foundations are institutions, it is often difficult to feel connected to the people behind the institutional walls, or "in the know" about internal changes that may affect those outside the foundation. But each and every one of them is composed of a group of individuals passionately working together -- at least in theory -- toward a common purpose, and each of these individuals is connected to networks outside the foundation that add value at the personal, organizational, and sector level.

Open letter from Gary L. Yates It is, therefore, admirable when someone like Gary L. Yates, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) for nearly 20 years, shares his intention to retire well in advance of the event with both his internal and external audiences via an open letter on the foundation’s web site. This letter goes beyond simply announcing the leadership change; Yates' message also discusses the implications this transition will have on the foundation's grantmaking program -- addressing head-on the questions in which grantees and other stakeholders have a vested interest. Change is inevitable, but made easier when preparations can be implemented based on foreknowledge. With a transparent change in leadership, TCWF is reassuring its various audiences. And in doing so, Yates reminds us that human relationships really are at the center of philanthropy.

-- Mark Foley

Integrating a Network Mindset into Grantmaking: Part 2
March 1, 2011

Beth Kanter is the author of Beth's Blog, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits, and co-author of the highly acclaimed book, The Networked Nonprofit, published by J. Wiley in 2010.

This is the second of a two-part blog post that explores "network weaving" skills. In Part 1, we looked at how grantmakers can incorporate these activities into daily practice. This second post explores how to use social networking tools to visualize your network, examines why changing our practice is so hard, and looks at how grantmakers can overcome the challenge.

Beth Kanter

Visualize your network. An important technique is to visualize your network. Steve Waddell, in talking about the value of mapping networks for systemic change, asserts that maps are most useful as tools to generate discussion about "what is," "what can be," and "what needs to change." Looking at your network map while thinking of gaps can be an insightful step.

Mapping Your LinkedIn Network

Recently LinkedIn created this free social network analysis mapping tool that lets you see your LinkedIn network and better understand relationships between you and your network. The most powerful feature of the map is that allows you to peer into your network, notice connections, and to remind yourself of people you know but may not have thought about in years.

As an exercise, we used the mapping to visualize our networks and ask these questions:

  • What patterns do you see?
  • What surprises you?
  • What might you do differently with your network?

I learned a lot by browsing through the visual network. My network is dense because I'm connected to a lot of well-connected people. What surprised me most about my map was how densely connected the nonprofit technology field was. Viewing my whole network in this visual format helped me remember people who I haven't been in touch with and their knowledge.

Using the map with a specific question about a gap is far more valuable exercise. I make a lot of referrals and I tend to get in ruts, but using the LinkedIn map as a spark to think of new people was useful.

Why Is It So Hard?

During the discussion, we all agreed that incorporating network weaving tasks into daily work requires conscious effort, especially if these activities are not called out specifically in a staff performance plan. One grantmaker shared that they have indicators around growing their professional network and have begun to celebrate staff members using social networking tools to do so. For example, a staff person recently received special recognition for reaching over 1,000 followers on Twitter.

There are a few personal and organizational challenges:

Information Overload: The issue is about being able to shift between connectedness and solitude. Once we are able to do this in discrete ways, we can avoid the feeling of anxiety that might come from being confronted with a lot of unstructured information.

Time Consuming: Learning new skills does take time to develop a habit, and then it becomes less time consuming because you don't have to think about the skill so much. Stephen Covey says it takes 23 days to make habit. One way to start is to focus on a new network weaving skill each month. Write it down on a sticky note, put it on your computer, and try to use that skill once a day.

Steep Learning Curve: Learning curves become steep when we try to take on too much at once. Try to break down the task. Also, having a peer group or a colleague who is learning the skill with you helps with motivation.

Few Incentives: How many of you have "network weaving" as a formal part of our jobs? Network weaving tasks are not typically linked to KPI, or even the informal on the job learning techniques that are such an important part of network weaving.

Internal Systems: Several grantmakers mentioned that their systems for sharing information internally—information that isn't necessarily confidential—cause them to do "double duty" if they want to share with the field.

How have you put a network mindset into practice? What online tools have you used? What are the barriers and how have you overcome them?

— Beth Kanter

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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation Center.

    Questions and comments may be
    directed to:

    Janet Camarena
    Director, Transparency Initiatives
    Foundation Center

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