How do funders help established organizations develop a network mindset? | Beth's Blog

How do funders help established organizations develop a network mindset?

Networked Nonprofit

Guest post by Adene Sacks

As the GEO gathering comes to a close, funders are spending their morning on the practical consideration of how adopting a network mindset will change our day to day work.  One of the most interesting discussions I participated in this morning focused on what networks mean for those established field organizations whose names are often synonymous with the work we do.


Monitor Group senior consultant Heather Grant McLeod made the fascinating point that many of these established organizations began life as networks but adopted centralized organizational structures to bend to their funders or funding model. Organizations like the Junior League, the Sierra Club and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Life are all, at their core, decentralized networks  Much of the work ahead for these field leaders is around unlearning current frameworks and opening the organization to greater participation.  Instead of traditional membership and dictates from the core organization to its affiliates — organizations need to consider models that align their membership around common goals and shared work.  As Heather observed, a sign of health is when participation in the efforts of the central office of are viewed by its constituency as “want to” rather than “have to.”


Funders also considered the impact of adopting a network mindset on an organization’s brand and fundraising potential. The visual proposed by consultant Roberto Creminoni was the following:




In a traditional organization, the funnel acts to pull people into your organization. The visual is vertical as is the work of a traditional organization. In a networked organization, Roberto suggested that the funnel be turned on its side to act as a megaphone – broadcasting an organization’s purpose far and wide in an attempt to go viral.


Adene Sacks Photo

Adene Sacks









Adene Sacks is a Senior Program Officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation. The Jim Joseph Foundation focuses on the Jewish education of youth and young adults based in San Francisco.  Adene represents the foundation’s learning about networks, organizational growth strategies and peer learning. Adene can be reached at


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