Tools for Getting Real with Your Giving Part 3: Critical Thinking

Uncategorized Sep 29, 2022

The Quality of Your Reasoning Process As a Donor Really Matters!

In the first two posts in this series we looked at systems thinking and root cause analysis as powerful ways for donors to unravel the complexity of real world challenges.  In this post we turn to critical thinking as a vital tool to better understand yourself, your perspective, your identity, and your own role in the deeper systems and structures you are seeking to change through your giving.


So What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is about analyzing and evaluating the world around you from an objective perspective in order to form accurate conclusions. As Linda Elder, President of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, puts it:

“Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way…. [Critical thinkers] realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their...

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Tools for Getting Real with Your Giving, Part 2: Root Cause Analysis

Uncategorized Sep 22, 2022

Root Cause Analysis: A Practical Way to Apply System Thinking In Your Giving 

In the first post in this series we looked at systems thinking as a key way to unravel the complexity of real world challenges. By helping to illuminate deeper systems at play, unexpected feedback loops, and other counterintuitive dynamics, systems thinking helps us gain clarity as change agents. This is not a matter of subscribing to ideologically driven articles of faith, but rather of pragmatic reflection on how the systems around us actually function, whatever their stated purpose.

So why aren't more donors and their teams already using systems thinking?  One reason is that the tools for applying it have often been presented in a very dense, challenging fashion. This causal loop diagram global fish stocks is an example.

  There’s deep insight there, but it looks a lot like a bowl of spaghetti to the untrained eye. Learning to understand, much less construct, the causal loop...

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Tools for Getting Real with Your Giving, Part 1: Systems Thinking

Uncategorized Sep 15, 2022

A lot of philanthropy goes wrong by failing to reckon with reality

Donors can become so attached to their own vision and strategic plan that they end up trying to bend reality around themselves. Purposefully or not, they encourage those around them to voice only what they already want to hear. This has a terrible impact on their own effectiveness as donors. It can also be deeply dispiriting for their grantees and their staff.

 Imagine if, as an investor in financial markets, you had a bedrock belief that the next wave of consumer demand in home furnishings was going to be all about sustainably sourced coconut fiber rugs and textiles. You and your family office investment team build up an elaborate investment thesis that includes positions in all the different layers of that supply chain, from coconut groves to fiber processing plants. Every time your team brings you the latest data showing that nobody actually wants to buy anything made with coconut fiber, you tell them there...

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Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone: 5 States of Mind for Donors

Uncategorized Sep 08, 2022

If You Want to Change the World for Real with Your Giving, That Process Begins With Your Own Psychology

Wherever you are in your journey as a donor seeking to translate money into meaning, chances are, there’s room for improvement in either the impact of your giving or your own sense of fulfillment as you do it. 

Why? Because your fullest potential as a human being and a change agent is almost always outside your current comfort zone. What’s more, the vast majority of us are still functioning on a kludged together version of humanity’s original mental operating system, something that is optimized for a simpler, bygone world of prehistoric “fight or flight” survival by individuals and small groups. 

So how do we meet the challenge of finding both joy and impact in the time and place we actually live in? This is an increasingly interconnected world full of wickedly complex problems that we can neither fight our way out of nor run away from. All...

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Sponsorship 101: The Ins and Outs for Donors, Providers and Recipients

Uncategorized Aug 18, 2022

Sponsorship: An Often Overlooked Opportunity

There's a tremendous opportunity for donors as well as social entrepreneurs to achieve positive impact and joy through program sponsorship. I get a lot of questions about this model because this is how we resource the Joyful Impact Accelerator we run for social entrepreneurs and a similar program we run for philanthropy advisors.  

This post walks through the sponsorship model as a resource engine to provide teaching, coaching and other programs which focus on participants' learning and development. 

What are we talking about here? In its simplest form, a sponsorship approach breaks up the bilateral relationship between a donor and a grantee.  The sponsor provides resources to the provider and the provider in turn provides programming and/or other supports to program participant. 

Sponsored growth and learning programs: opportunity for a win-win-win

  • For the recipient: services and support centered on your...
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Accelerating Past Overwhelm

Uncategorized Aug 10, 2022

As mission driven change agents, some of us have been running in the red zone so long we don't even know what it looks like to shift gears and find our "pace of grace."

This post is about finding ways to overcome overwhelm, remain hopeful and maximize our positive contribution in a world that can feel like its moving from one crisis to the next…

 Navigating three phases of psychological response to a crisis

In a world that feels more volatile and uncertain than ever, it can be helpful to recognize three phases of psychological orientation--individually and collectively--in response to crisis.  More than two years into a global pandemic, not to mention multiple intersecting additional crises, many people are still anchored in the apprehension or acclimation orientation.  These approaches leave us focused on meeting needs near the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy.   One reason that we can stay stuck is that the continued uncertainty and dislocation from...

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Strategic Leadership 101: Developing A Landscape Analysis

Uncategorized Aug 04, 2022

Context eats strategy for breakfast! 

This saying points out the danger of  jumping into strategic planning without fully considering the landscape--the context--in which we are operating.  In this latest post in our series on strategic leadership, we are going to look at how to create a landscape analysis which maps the context in which your strategic choices unfold.  Whether you are a donor, a philanthropy advisor or a social entrepreneur, it makes sense to get familiar with this process and use it whenever you are making significant strategic choices about how best to achieve the impact you envision.

Strategy: A Working Definition

How you carry out your mission

Consistent with your values

In order to maximize your potential impact in pursuit of your vision

Landscape Analysis: An Essential Foundation for Strategic Planning

A landscape analysis:

  • Pressure tests your theory of change and your theory of action against the reality of your operating environment...
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Strategic Leadership 101: Developing A Theory of Action

Uncategorized Jul 28, 2022

Saying no is sometimes called the essence of strategy.  But if you actually want to make change in the world, you also need to take action. 

In a previous post we talked about creating a compelling shared vision, which is the starting point for any strategy that has a chance co working the real world where the outcomes we hope to achieve are more than we can bring about through our own action.

Now, in the next post in this series about strategic leadership, it's time to talk about strategy: how do we actually  contribute the most we possibly can to the change we envision out in the world?  In this post we'll focus in on one of the foundational elements of strategy: your theory of action. 


Strategy: A Working Definition


How you carry out your mission

Consistent with your values

In order to maximize your potential impact in pursuit of your vision


Theory of Action vs Theory of Change

These two terms get thrown a lot in strategic planning...

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Strategic Leadership 101: Crafting a Compelling Shared Vision

Uncategorized Jul 20, 2022

Research going back several decades reveals that the two most important attributes people look for in a leader they would willingly follow are honesty and vision.  

This post is the first in a series about how to show up as your best self in a  strategic leadership role, whether you are running an organization or in charge of a team within a  larger organization. How do we marshal the tools of strategic planning--vision, mission, values, theory of change, theory of action etc.--in the most compelling possible way?

We'll begin by looking at the question of how to craft a compelling shared vision.  

 A compelling vision is about clarity and shared purpose in pursuit of a better future

As change agents, our vision for a better world is necessarily larger than ourselves--and this means we need a vision  that doesn't just come from our own head and our own heart.  We need to figure out how to engage others to co-create that vision. As a...

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Structuring Your Giving Part 3: Choosing the Best Structural Form(s)

Uncategorized Jul 13, 2022

Figuring Out Which Giving Structures Make the Most Sense for You, Part 3

 As we began to explore in a previous post on this topic, there’s a lot to consider as you try to figure out which giving structures are the best match for carrying out your giving.  Here’s what I recommend: begin by identifying which of the key functional questions (what, where, when, who, wealth stock and whatever else) reviewed in this post and the previous post are most relevant to your giving.  Then consult the corresponding sections of this summary chart to see which of the 7 structural forms (checkbook philanthropy, donor advised fund, private foundation etc) are the best fit.  

You can download a full size version of this table here.

You’ll still need to do your diligence and consult your financial and legal advisors before making your own decisions, but this chart is great for getting the big picture with a side by side  view of the...

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