There is one thing that holds philanthropists back from achieving dramatic impact on the issues and causes they care most about: a poverty mentality.
It might seem like an oxymoron for people with wealth or professional access to wealth to experience a form of poverty, but hear me out.
“A poverty mentality in philanthropy is a belief that maintaining a Spartan operation equates to efficiency and effectiveness, and that you and your staff do not deserve to invest in your own success.”
Are the following instances happening in your organization?
Your executive director spends a significant portion of his or her time handling basic administrative activities— such as meeting logistics, travel reimbursement, taking minutes and copyediting board dockets— which leaves him less time to focus on strategy, planning, building relationships, developing partnerships and thinking. Yet you will not allow him or her to hire an administrative assistant, because you want to keep your overhead costs low and your grant budget high.
You want to launch a new grantmaking initiative. You are not sure how to go about it, but you know that you need to hire a consultant to help you. Another foundation highly recommends two consultants they have used with very successful results. But in the name of shopping for ‘the best value,’ you spend months putting together a complex request for proposal (RFP)— one that details the entire process of exactly how the consultant should approach the project. You send the RFP to 20 consultants and do not allow for extra staff support to evaluate their responses.
You refuse to allow your staff to take their laptops on business trips, because they might drop and break them. The fact that they are unable to respond to emails from grantees or work while on the road is of less concern. The problem here is that you are hamstringing your philanthropy by not investing in it. Furthermore, the internal investments you are making in time and money are hindering, not advancing, your mission.
Funders who embrace an abundance mentality believe that internal investment is important, and that the more they put into their operations and relationships, the more they get out of them.
Believe their missions deserve the best partners. They ask, “Who are the top experts in the country or the world who can inform our strategy?” and reach out to them.
Invest in their own infrastructure. They ask themselves, “What tools, resources or technology will help our staff and grantees become more effective? Better yet, why don’t we ask them?”
Recognize that maximizing the impact of their grantmaking budgets involves more than giving away money. The value of the organization’s top people having time to read, think, explore, strategize, create and innovate far exceeds the cost of an administrative assistant’s annual salary in terms of impact and efficiency.
When you embrace abundance and realize the benefits of investing in your own capacity in order to better achieve your mission, everybody wins. Your staff become more capable, your partners more engaged and your grantees better supported. As a result, you are all the more able to make the changes you seek.