Giving Compass’ Take:
• Mariella Puerto, writing for GrantCraft, describes her experience at the Barr Foundation, sharing lessons on how funders can be both strategic and flexible when setting nonprofit goals.
• What are the challenges for funders collaborating with nonprofits on strategic goals?
• Read more about key strategic questions facing nonprofits.
How can funders be both strategy-focused and flexible? How can we be clear and consistent about our goals and priorities, but not risk missing big ideas that may not align perfectly with our assumptions of what the levers are?
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In hindsight, five steps helped me follow my intuition, and invest in a big opportunity despite its first appearance:
- First, ask a set of basic questions. Was it in our plan? In the case of methane, no. Was the government already doing something about it? Again, no. Had thought leaders identified it as a priority? Not yet.
- Second, check your gut. My gut said yes, this could be a game-changing issue worthy of our attention – or at least serious exploration. Our president, Jim Canales, often speaks of the importance of philanthropy balancing focus and flexibility, and of being “tight on goals but loose on how to achieve them.”
- Third, tap key networks. I asked my grantees and other partners for their input and advice.
- Fourth, invest in research. One of Barr’s grantees, the Conservation Law Foundation, agreed to work with Nathan to research the extent of the problem and develop a menu of policy solutions. How did it compare to other actions already being taken in the fight against climate change?
- Finally, release the findings to those who can use the results. The resulting publication, Into Thin Air, revealed that there were 3,300 leaks in Boston alone. It also estimated that the state lost more gas through leaks than it saved through its nation-leading energy efficiency programs.
New ideas and partners emerge all the time, and often in unexpected ways. So, it is important to remain humble and open about what the right answers may be. Otherwise, we may miss some of the most powerful opportunities to achieve our goals.
Read the full article about nonprofit goals by Mariella Puerto at GrantCraft
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