Note from Beth: I’m hosting a small army of guest bloggers, grantmakers, who are attending the GeoFunders National Conference taking place this week in Seattle. The GEO community is united by a common drive to challenge the norm in pursuit of better results. GEO’s 2012 National Conference shares a range of perspectives and new ideas for smarter grantmaking that leads to better results and presents opportunities for participants to learn from the wisdom and experience of their peers. If you’re not attending and curious what funders are learning, you’ll have an opportunity to read some of the ideas and questions being discussed right here on this blog.
Use All the Tools in Your Tool Box – guest post by David C. Colby
Eugene Eric Kim of Groupaya challenged GEO grantmakers to become changemakers. He outlined how this would happen. According to Kim change starts with the individual; change is hard; and it requires a shift in thinking. What is needed is comparable to what Thomas Kuhn described in Scientific Revolutions—there has to be a major paradigm shift in thinking. Young people or new people to the field would bring new ways of thinking and doing philanthropy; older people would die off (or merely retire). Not a new theory, remember Thomas Jefferson said that every generation needs a new revolution.
Eugene Eric Kim did not describe how philanthropic work would have to change. At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we had a paradigm shift. It didn’t involve young people or some of us dying off. It involved everyone. We had a branding exercise in which staff members, grantees, and board members were asked, “What business are you in?” The reflexive response was “giving away money.” But that was quickly followed by a collective recognition of a paradigm shift—we were about social change.
In a previous session at GEO, Marie Colombo said that the Skillman Foundation had to create a new job—program officer for change making— who does not give away grants, but is involved in social change. RWJF took a different approach—the job description for all program officers changed to recognize their role in social change.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF’s president, captured the new activities in the phrase five Cs. To accomplish long-term social change, all of our program officers needed to communicate, convene, coordinate, connect, and count. Giving away cash was the sixth C. If you are interested in moving from giving grants to making social change, you have to use all the tools in your tool box.
David C. Colby, Vice President, Research and Evaluation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. David focuses on using evidence to improve philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.