PF Whiteboard

Big Bang

Last week I was in Fort Colins in Colorado, at the annual Big Bang gathering. Thankfully, the weather was delightful so my CA-light wardrobe was not tested for CO-winter readiness—it would have failed…

Big Bang Philanthropy is a collaborative group of like-minded funders who all give at least $1M annually to global poverty solutions, more particularly to “impact driven” organisations. The definition of “impact driven” that we’ve settled on, for now*, is: 1) a clear process around impact, 2) notions for scale, 3) a viable delivery model, 4) a realistic and efficient cost per outcome. Obviously there’s a lot of subjectivity within those 4 aspects.

We make decisions independent of each other, so we all fund some of the orgs classed as Big Bang orgs, and all fund many that aren’t. Sometimes we agree on what the above 4 aspects look like in real life, and sometimes we don’t. But we all share pipeline, insights, and, where we can, reporting (so one org funded by a number of us don’t have to produce just as many reports). Those classed as Big Bang orgs are funded at a certain level by at least 3 of the Big Bang funders who all agree that they meet the above 4 aspects of “impact driven”.

We’re still figuring out exactly how the Big Bang will operate and grow, but it’s a great group to learn from, to share ideas of what works and what doesn’t, and to push each other to be better at the business of philanthropy. The main reason we love Big Bang Philanthropy is because of that last point: we believe it’s a way to focus on becoming a more grantee-centric funding organisation, and for us to draw attention to simple but smart practices of philanthropy like unrestricted funding and multi-year commitments. Music to our ears!


*as anyone who has been involved with collaboratives can attest, coming to agreed upon definitions is a sticky, messy process.


Grant Making By Conversation?

In the few months I’ve been at Peery, I’ve been meeting with community leaders throughout East Palo Alto. Particularly, I have learned a lot from the hard-working principals of Ravenswood City School District (RCSD). Given my own experience as a site administrator in Ravenswood, coupled with my recent conversations, I know that each of them wishes they could clone themselves – there’s just not enough of them to go around. They are needed everywhere, all the time.  Principals rely on their own heroes – masterful, committed teachers that give, and give, and give.
Dave and I were recently brainstorming ways to support principals and their heroes in the day-to-day work they give so much to. Schools sites already have established Site Leadership Teams (SLTs), where principals and teacher leaders come together to problem-solve and act upon the schools’ goals and needs. We want to support an existing structure. We hope to empower the team to act by giving them access to funds that already align with the work in which they are tasked.
Knowing how precious their time is, and how resources are either limited or restricted, we wanted to create a process that was simple with a quick turnaround. How can we support every leadership team without asking for too much of their time?  How can the grant making process be as painless as possible, and support the people that are doing such great work at the schools?
After talking through several ideas with Dave, we decided to tackle this question: Can we create a process of grant making through conversation? Within a week, I crafted an RFP and sent it out to all Ravenswood principals. The process essentially entails a 15-minute conversation with the SLT, no PowerPoint, no handouts. We’re not sure how it will be received, but are looking for feedback. Does the process seem easier than it actually is? Is the process rigorous enough?


Turning the tables (just a little)

We’re pulling the trigger on creating an app/platform that will enable us to get rolling feedback and ratings on our performance, from our grantees. Advocate Creative will be building us a platform that is simple to use, quick to complete and 100% anonymous. Our hope is once we have it in place our grantees (and others) can rate us on 3 characteristics on a rolling basis—as often as they interact with us if they wish. It’ll be right there in a link in our email signatures, and something we can direct people to after calls/meetings too.

Twice a year the results will be delivered in aggregate. We won’t know when each rating comes in or who rated us how. We won’t have access to the rolling results—it will only be delivered to us twice a year, without the ability to slice and dice the data by dates/months.

The characteristics we’ll be rated on (out of 5 stars) have been chosen by a group of social entrepreneurs. We asked them, ‘what would you want to rate funders on?’. They responded, in almost complete harmony: 1) Responsive, clear, and transparent communication, 2) Friendly, helpful, and happy to hear from me/work with me, 3) Challenging, knowledgeable, and valuable collaborator. There will be an optional short text box for additional feedback.

If you’re a grant seeker, would you rate us on this sort of thing after a call or meeting? If you had a good experience? If you had a bad experience? If not, why not?


Grantees as Customers: Four ways funders can serve and empower grantees

(Originally published on the Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog)

At the Peery Foundation, we think of grantees as our customers and act accordingly. We’re not investing enough resources on our own to solve social issues at a systemic level, so we try to focus on our core function: to invest in social entrepreneurs and leading organizations. This means we leave the big, hairy problem-solving to grantees and focus on how to create a funding environment that better enables their success. We don’t do any of the following perfectly, but here are some of the ideals we try to live by:

We use empathy to design our funding approach.

We’ve spent the past six or seven years designing a grantee-centered approach to funding. This has required that we impose on ourselves the same expectations we have of prospective grantees. For example, we expect that organizations design their interventions based on insights from beneficiaries and their communities. We, in turn, should be designing our funding strategies with input from social entrepreneurs.

I’ve had countless interviews with nonprofit leaders and staff about what is working and what is not with their funders. For example, Jane Leu, founder of Upwardly Global (one of our grantees), articulated for me how multi-year grants enable organizations to grow much more quickly. These conversations have directly informed an approach focused on trust, responsiveness, and long-term, unrestricted support—and we are seeing results. We recently made a multi-year grant to help one organization hire a program director to scale up. This commitment provided a local school district with the confidence to devote significant district resources, more than doubling the reach of the program. Predictable funding gives entrepreneurs the confidence to make important hires now and take risks that can propel their work forward. And while that may seem obvious, it’s not always so for donors who haven’t been in the fundraising chair.

We communicate with intention.

People often ask how we develop open lines of communication with our grantees. It starts with simply having the conversation at the outset about what kind of funding relationship you intend to have. Letting them know they can share the good, bad, and the ugly—without consequence—and letting them know they should decline things we offer if they don’t need them. “If we offer to send you to a conference and it’s not a priority, please tell us. You won’t hurt our feelings!” 

Intentional communication is important to shifting the power dynamic. Small actions and words communicate how we see our respective roles, and who holds the power. For example, when we meet with our grantees, where does this happen—at our office or theirs? When we conduct due-diligence, who spends more time on the process—us or them? We make a point of saving grantees’ time by meeting at their offices, and asking only for documents they already have for diligence and reporting. We are in service to these incredible people who are impacting our world. We are powerless to fulfill our mission without them.

We value honest feedback.

We once asked a new grantee to articulate its milestones for the next 12 months, and in an effort to keep it simple and make the team’s life easier, we requested that they submit just one page. When they sent the one-pager, they told me, “Here it is, but making it three pages long would’ve actually been easier!” I was glad they spoke up—though our intentions were right on, the request should have been about communicating the organization’s milestones in the easiest way possible.

Honest and regular feedback from grantees is critical, but it can be hard to get. Tools such as the Grantee Perception Report by the Center for Effective Philanthropy are great and go very deep, but we need more safe, simple, and accessible ways for grantees to rate and critique their funders.

It recently occurred to my colleague Jessamyn Lau that using a feedback system similar to Uber taxi service—where both the driver and passenger rate each other, establishing a level playing field of respect—could be a way to solicit feedback on the performance of our foundation’s and staff’s performance. Right now we are developing a simple feedback tool that will allow anyone who interacts with us to immediately and anonymously rate their experience, with results given to us at the end of a year.

We encourage grantees to make the rules.

In the world of grantmaking, the funders typically make all the rules. But what if, for example, nonprofit websites had a section listing the kinds of funding they do and do not accept? “We don’t accept restricted funding, as it can hamper our ability to innovate and achieve our mission.” Or what about reporting? “We distribute a quarterly report to all of our investors, which includes all of our performance metrics and updates.”

We are part of a funder collaborative called Big Bang Philanthropy, where our shared grantees issue the same quarterly reports to nearly all of us. We’ve encouraged other organizations to do the same. Not all funders will accept this style of reporting, but, for those who will, it allows grantees to spend less time on reporting and more time running their programs. As grantees streamline their accountability to funders, they will ultimately have a cohort of committed supporters who are bought into the vision the grantee is setting, rather than their own.

In the spirit of learning from those we serve, I’ll close with the words of Rob Gitin of At The Crossroads (ATC), which helps homeless youth move forward in their lives via unconditional and long-term relationships. Many agencies serving the homeless have so many rules that clients feel they have to “game the system” to get help; ATC focuses on building relationships of trust to facilitate the best support for the youth it supports. “They shouldn’t have to lie to be better-served by us,” Rob told me. “Without a foundation of honesty you can’t serve them.”


Information Smorgasbord

Thanks to the internet (and google) we have almost endless information and resources at our fingertips.  We can access the life work, groundbreaking ideas, and carefully developed resources of experts in any imaginable field with a few strokes of the keyboard.  So why shouldn’t we?  It seems to me that in this age of information there is absolutely no excuse for reinventing the wheel.  There is just no sense in wasting time and energy re-doing something someone much smarter than us has already done. 

We’ve mentioned before that we’ve recently developed a social innovation curriculum at the PF - something none of us have ever done before.  We have an idea, and we think it’s a good one, but to really make it useful we’ve found it’s best to borrow wherever possible (as long as we have all of the appropriate rights and permissions, that is).  For each lesson we’ve pulled articles, videos, and frameworks from across the web and our networks.  We think this makes our curriculum much, much stronger.  We may know that it’s important for our students to understand root cause analysis, for example, but we also know that someone else has far superior tools to actually teach it to them.

Throughout this process we’ve been pleased to find that everyone we have asked has been more than happy to share their resources and expertise (and we’ve asked a lot of people).  It just doesn’t make sense not to.  Especially in the context of the social sector—we all have the same vision and should help each other achieve success wherever possible. 

So here’s our vote for more sharing, more borrowing, and much less reinventing.


Finished!

We’ve been heads down for a number of months creating a social innovation syllabus. After weeks of white-boarding, scribbling and sketching, revising documents, review sessions and feedback calls, we pressed print.

Our class, ‘Do Good Better’, provides a structure for students to:
1) discover the varied roles they can play in the social innovation sphere,
2) learn about 3 key skills useful in all roles they might be interested in: root cause analysis, solution evaluation, and impact measurement,
3) create a 20yr, 5yr, and next-semester plan for their own unique contribution to their community (as they define it).

We’re insanely excited and slightly nervous. This is the first time Lanée and I have ever done anything like this, but we found ourselves creating the class we wish we could have taken. We quickly realised that the 14 week class would need an accompanying workbook, so we set about creating that too. 74 pages later, ‘Do Good Better: The Guide’, just got back from the printers. A tangible product of our work this summer! The Guide is complemented by a Pinterest board of homework and resources, and the students will be blogging some of their developing ideas around social innovation on this Wordpress blog.

We have finished our preparation and we’ll start our small pilot class at BYU in a week and a half. Once it gets in the students’ hands the editing will begin again as we test and refine the content and delivery. So really we’ve only just started.


Yelp for Foundations

The ‘Yelp’ for non-profits, GreatNonprofits, provides an opportunity for people to review non-profit organisations (full disclosure: the PF has provided funding for GreatNonprofits in the past). On GreatNonprofits.org anyone can share their experiences and interactions with an organisation -highlighting those who provide great services and occasionally those that don’t do such a great job. Greatnonprofits’ mission is to inspire and inform donors and volunteers, gather stories that demonstrate the work of great non-profits, and promote excellence through transparency and feedback.

What if there were a GreatFoundations.org? A mechanism for grantees to review their experiences and interactions with a foundation. Somewhere to inform grant seekers of what kind of interaction they can expect. A repository for great stories of grantee-funder partnership. And somewhere to promote excellence through transparency and feedback. This is not a new idea, but one that has not come to fruition yet.

As people have discussed the potential of this I’ve heard concern about whether non-profits would actually participate or give truly frank feedback as they would never want to damage a funding relationship, or their reputation with other funders -an understandable and real concern. But what if the feedback could range in its level of detail? At the very least a non-profit could give an overall rating out of 5 stars for a foundation, then if they wanted to they could give ratings out of 5 for the foundation on various general categories, and then finally have the option to go in to detail by writing an actual review -all anonymously. The general categories could be things that cut across types and sizes of foundations, like ‘clarity’, or ‘respect’.

What other categories would be telling, yet general enough to apply to all funding interactions? Comment or email me (jessamynATpeeryfoundationDOTorg) with your suggestions. We’ll pass them on should this idea get traction any time soon!


Philanthropy Misbehaving

This week I heard a couple of fund raising horror stories. I was appalled by the behaviour of my fellow funding professionals. They are outliers, for sure, but it saddened me to hear of those few who sometimes turn talking to funders in to a dreadful or demoralising event.

Please, if you thrive on the inherent power imbalance in philanthropy, or don’t have respect for the people at the table with you, find another profession or industry. After 3 years in philanthropy I’m not yet an expert but feel protective of the approach to philanthropy many influential funders have worked hard to create. Funders like Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, Mulago, Draper Richards Kaplan and many others around the world. Those who constantly try to improve the way they walk the line of respectful candour, are conscious of the time they ask for from grant seekers, and simply trust their grantees.

It was put really well by Gayle Williams, ED of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, who I’ve never met but is quoted in a great Council on Foundations publication, ‘Wit and Wisdom’:

“Know that the culture of philanthropy is a culture of privilege and try to maintain a sense of humility within that place of power and privilege. People in the field can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. We can either behave in privileged ways, or we can work to maintain a deep sense of who we are and act with integrity and authenticity. There’s no easy way to deal with this tension, but we have to struggle with it. I’d worry if we didn’t struggle with the privilege that surrounds us.”


Someone Else Implementing a Brilliant Idea -Part 2

Here’s the latest update from our friends implementing a self-directed reporting process. See previous blog posts here, and here.

“We put together a quarterly report on our work in Haiti for Q2, just as we’d done for Q1. But this time we also put together a Keynote presentation and scheduled a Webex call so that people could hear us talk about the work and expand upon it in ways that a powerpoint can’t do on its own. We all congratulated ourselves on a job well done - it was concise, it was informative, it was entertaining - and sent out a copy of the presentation. We just regretted not having recorded the audio version but figured we could do that the next time.

Of course… it turns out we only had a handful of people who dialed in to the call/presentation, in fact I think we had more internal staffers on it than outside participants. Ultimately, given everyone’s busy travel schedules and the fact that getting everyone in one room at once represented a considerable (human) investment on our part, we decided that for the next update - Q3, out next week - we will just be sending out a PDF version of the original-style document. So maybe simpler was better.

We’re not averse to doing another presentation, we just want to make sure it was worth our while. Worth anyone’s while, really. And if we’d gotten a check in the mail for some general operating support as a result of someone’s total confidence in us, we might have changed our minds again! But at present, I think that’s all that we, at our limited capacity, are able to do.”

Interesting. It’s still early days for this org, but it seems that the value of one reporting system is not as cut and dry as it might initially look. One of the reasons I thought this concept, of one report and one reporting call, made sense was that relationships could be built amongst the funders of an organisation.

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking a little about this when I’ve been on conference calls. Interaction and audience participation is really hard to cultivate in a group conf call setting. And that’s when people do in fact remember to dial in to the call. Has anyone cracked this puzzle? Are there specific things that can be done to ensure people 1) value the call enough to be sure they will dial in, and 2) have the right set up for meaningful and productive discussion? Or do you still end up following up personally with everyone after the call?

As always, comments and ideas are welcome.


Dream Funder

Hello!

For a few months we were pretty sure we were giving up on our blog. We didn’t think the time put in to writing posts produced enough value or usefulness. However, after a few conversations at the Opportunity Collaboration last month we’ve decided to get back on the wagon.


At the Opportunity Collaboration I led a dinner discussion on what makes an ‘ideal funder’. As you might imagine, we had lots of eager participants all ready to contribute to painting a picture of a great funder. There were grant seekers, grant makers, and philanthropy consultants at the table, drawing flowcharts, cartoons and writing lists. The discussion was broad and extensive (see word cloud above), but boiled down to 4 main points. So here, in the words of a group of thoughtful Opp Collab delegates are the top 4 characteristics of an ideal funding relationship:

- Trust
- Transparency
- Thoughtful flexibility
- Partnership

I’d love to hear specific stories and instances of funders demonstrating these characteristics. How does a funder demonstrate they trust you? In what way do you want funders to be transparent? Can you share examples of funders being thoughtfully flexible? What does a partnership with a funder look like?

Concrete examples will help us and other funders take list of nice, but abstract, words and figure out if and how we can put them in to action. This is about sharing best practices, not recognising specific people or organisations, so please keep your description general (no program officer/funder names).

Thanks, in advance of taking the time to type.


Someone Else's Brilliant Idea #2

We just offered to make intros/recommendations to 7 different funders/supporters on behalf of one of our SE partners. This doesn’t happen every day, so how did it occur?

It was check in time for one of our Global Partners this week. They sent us over internal materials (already prepared, not specific for us) for review before the call. One of the documents was an asset map -a full list of all the potential and current asset providers on the org’s radar. Sending this was a very smart move.

It’s only the second time we’ve had a SE send us their asset map in full -often times partners highlight a few key relationships they are focusing on building, or give us a verbal run down of the funders they are preparing proposals for. A full asset map lays it all out there: Organisation, Primary contact, Deadline, Current status, Funds expected, Likelihood for success, etc. It included both current and potential supporters, financial and non financial supporters. We had a complete picture of who this organisation had talked to, who they decided it was not worth talking to, and who they were currently talking with. We also saw who they had approached but had not been a fit.

As a funder who adamantly believes in the missions of the organisations they support, wants to be supportive beyond simply cutting a cheque, and is operating with a lean team, this information is huge. We looked down the list and immediately saw a bunch of people in the ‘high likelihood’ category, with whom the Peery Foundation has strong enough relationships with that we’d be happy to make a recommendation. Some of those people are folks that the SE did not know we knew -they would never have known to specifically ask us for a connection to them. Sharing everything helped us see what was most needed (that we might not previously have been aware of) and thus where we could really help.

It’s also impressive from a funder perspective. We have a greater belief in this SE’s self-awareness, level of strategic thinking and relationship savvy.

I’m trying to think of situations where you wouldn’t want to share this info… but if you have funders that you trust and who trust you then it might be worth sharing your full asset map with them. You never know what networks they’ll be able to open up for you.


Someone Else Implementing a Brilliant Idea

A few weeks ago I wrote about VisionSpring’s funder reporting process. The week after the post went up I received an email from a manager at an organisation that was just about to make a similar shift. They wanted to move from reporting individually to each of their funders -according to the reporting frameworks each of those funders required, to creating one dashboard of the organisation’s own metrics, inviting all their funders to take part in one reporting discussion. For more on the process see my previous post.

We realise that this is not a small decision, and a scary leap to take. I asked the org if they would mind sharing this journey, their motivation, trepidation, hurdles and hopefully success. Here is part one, as they begin this transition:

“As a small nonprofit, we often feel like we are beholden to the whims and vagaries of our funders and partners. This usually means that we conform to their reporting schedules and geographic and programmatic preferences, but oftentimes it signals a positive, and leads us to new opportunities, or affords us the chance to look at our work from a different, but equally meaningful, perspective. We are pleased to have been able to work with outside experts in monitoring and evaluating our programs, but in all honesty can also feel a little schizophrenic when working with some funders who exact strict and demanding reporting of us, while others sign over grant monies without so much as a follow-up email.

We decided, as an experiment, to take matters into our own hands (inspired in part by the Peery Foundation blog post on nonprofits’ self-reporting activities): in addition to the donor-mandated reporting for one of our larger programs, we developed a presentation that we plan on updating quarterly, sharing with all of the supporters - both financial and otherwise - of the program. In fact, we plan on opening it up to anyone interested in our work, and will hold quarterly conference calls in which we review the presentation, answer questions and - most importantly - respond to many queries all at once. This will mean a tremendous time saver for us, and hopefully will instill confidence in our network of supporters, both in our ability to do our work well and in our belief in evaluating ourselves on an ongoing basis. We’ll see how it goes…”

I’ll be checking in with them again in a couple of months to see what pleasant or challenging surprises this process brings. 

We’d love to hear from you if you’re in a similar position. What difficulties are you facing? What benefits are you reaping?


A Peery Foundation Mohawk

A little while ago I developed the analogy of ‘getting a Mohawk’. In a past life I actually had a mohawk, so figured I was qualified enough to define it as: a decision that is risky, but not permanent, and helps you become more of who/what you want to be.

We are a young foundation. Small. Learning. Still admittedly getting some things wrong. But with aspirations to be better. Mostly we’re trying to figure out who and what we are as an organisation, and how we are uniquely situated to be most effective in our support.

On a fairly regular basis we get a mohawk. We make decisions and try things out that involve risk, but that aren’t irreversible. Things that help us figure out what we are and how we best operate. Sometimes we talk about big mohawks with spikes and colours, and then realise they aren’t right for the moment. We don’t go through with all of them. Mostly we get small mohawks. But it is this openness to experimentation and thoughtful iteration that makes the PF an exciting, and potentially more effective, organisation to work within.

One small current mohawk: This year we’re going to have a social entrepreneur check-in with our social entrepreneurs. Sounds strange? Let me explain.

With each of our partners we aim to have quarterly or semi annual check-ins. We discuss how they are doing with their milestones, what their current challenges are, and find out if and how we can further help them. Neither Dave nor I will be the primary contact for check-ins with the PF for our Global Portfolio partners in 2011. Instead the check-ins will be with one of their own; a social entrepreneur.

One of our partners and advisors, Martin Burt (founder of Fundacion Paraguaya), has been working with us on our international due diligence, providing deeper insights in to the challenges and opportunities of global models. This year as we are not anticipating growing our Global Portfolio, and so not having international due diligence to perform, Martin has agreed to act as our quasi international program officer. He has a strong grounding in the PF’s process and networks as we’ve worked with him over a number of years in various capacities, and he performed due diligence on many of our current portfolio members, so already has a good grounding in many of their organisations. We’re hoping that our partners will feel even more comfortable talking through issues with him -as a peer practitioner- but also that he will be able to give them more useful advice and support as they discuss issues that he may have come up against and worked through himself at some point.

There are risks associated with trying this. Concerns we’ve already thought about are issues of continuity, effective communication through another layer of conversations, capturing and sharing Martin’s insights, etc. We’re still fine tuning how exactly it will work. Dave and I will not be stepping back completely from the Global portfolio, and we need to figure out how each of our partners sees something like this working for them. Some may opt out.

At the end of the day if it doesn’t work, it’s not a permanent decision. But we hope this mohawk will help us continue to learn. That’s how we’ll find a better way to do things and the best way for us to support our partners.


Ashoka U Exchange

This past weekend I was in North Carolina at Duke for the Ashoka U Exchange. Here’s the blog post I wrote for Ashoka U’s blog on the value the Exchange had for funders:

If you’re a funder working with a university to support them building a social entrepreneurship program here are my top three reasons you should go to Ashoka U’s Exchange next year.

1. Become Informed and Useful

Funding and supporting university based leaders is a whole different ball game to funding social entrepreneurs. There are complexities, challenges and opportunities that come along with a university setting and can be discouraging or even debilitating if you’re not smart about recognising and understanding them. As funders in hands on situations we can be distracting with tangents we *think* might be useful for the university to pursue, or we can be value add -aware of the specific decisions and actions most crucial to establishing a social entrepreneurship (SE) program at a higher education institution. Attending Ashoka U Exchange with representation from multiple stakeholders from the team was a great move for learning together and being uniformly informed.

2. Build Brand

If you’re supporting the creation of a SE program then chances are you want that program to be renowned for excellence in the area of SE education. A reputation is, of course, made up of many components. One of which is building a brand. The Ashoka U network consists of the pioneers of the field as well as the many new campuses serious about embedding SE in to their campus culture and curriculum. The field of SE education is being built here. There is no better place to begin to get your name out there and recognised for what you’re accomplishing. And with this crowd the best way to get your name out there is to share openly and freely ideas, models and successes.

3. Reach Critical Mass

Though the majority of funders will primarily be focused on building SE education at the institution(s) they partner with, ultimately we’re all involved in this because we want to see SE and changemaking embedded in education everywhere. This will only happen as a critical mass of universities lead the way in establishing excellent SE programs, demonstrating that the workplace and the world needs more students to be better prepared to solve problems. There are already many universities with SE programs and curricula, but until now their efforts have been, for the most part, independent of each other. With Ashoka U’s ability to create a network, recognise elements of excellence, and highlight effective campus programs they are building a movement.

Full disclosure: I briefly worked with the Ashoka U team prior to joining the Peery Foundation.


Someone Else's Brilliant Idea

Here’s a great idea that we’ve been able to see in action and are now recommending to anyone who will listen!

In 2009 VisionSpring, began to let their funders know that they would be hosting reporting calls on a quarterly basis. They would prepare their slide deck report, with updates on their key metrics and organisational developments, send it out to their funders, and present it with commentary on the conference call. All the funders who called in got the most up to date information, and could then ask questions about the report or other things not included in the report. VisionSpring also asked for feedback on what else people would like to see in the report.

This was great for a number of reasons: 1) VisionSpring answered the common questions only once for everyone to hear, 2) we all got to connect with each other as funders with common priorities, 3) we got to learn from each other’s line of questioning, 4) everyone stayed on schedule. It saved us all time, but especially the VisionSpring team, who hopefully got to spend less time telling us what they did and more time doing what they do: reducing poverty through preparing Vision Entrepreneurs. I asked Malini Krishna, VP of Business Development for their perspective on other benefits or challenges this process brought VisionSpring.

“From VisionSpring’s perspective, the overall value of the quarterly dashboard calls is efficiently communicating our operational progress and collecting feedback to strengthen our programs and fundraising, which is critical to a small, resource constrained organization. I think the biggest challenge for VisionSpring with the calls is ensuring we have all the data in place to ensure we are transparent to our major donors. However, the time invested in this process is well worth it with the benefits we gain. Some of our funders have required/requested additional reporting to meet our grant terms, but we are usually better prepared because of this consistent communication and can better plan for additional presentations.”

There you have it. An organisation, for the most part, dictating the reporting terms for its funders. More efficient, more effective, perhaps even more fun. If you already do this/or decide to give it a try let us know how it works for you.


Hands On

The depth to which we are involved with each of our partners varies. Some organisations are newer and have a list of things we can help them find/do, others are very well established and for the most part we just get out of their way and watch with awe. Each partnership is defined by the situation and needs of the organisation.

One unique partnership is with BYU (Brigham Young University). Before I joined the PF, Dave and the Peery family had noticed an opportunity at BYU. A number of the family are BYU grads and they were very familiar with the student body who are highly entrepreneurial, have diverse international experience and language skills, and firmly believe in the school’s motto of ‘Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve’. It’s obvious, right? Social Entrepreneurship fit! While there were a few solid SE activities already established on campus, they recognised an opportunity to coordinate the existing efforts, as well as build a robust program that would serve students and faculty across campus more completely.

Currently, this is what about 40% of my time is spent on, as we prepare to launch the program. This will dramatically decrease over the next year but for now BYU is the one partner we are in communication with almost daily. I’m a BYU grad myself, so it’s extremely gratifying to be able to continue to build what I wanted to see while a graduate student there. I work with the program’s director, a founders group of professionals all volunteering their time to create the program, and many faculty and student leaders. As with most of what we do at the PF, it’s gratifying work -just in a different way.

The program will be launching in February, the week of the 7th. I’m pretty sure you’ll get to hear a little more about all the goings ons, then.

And if there are any funders out there working with universities already doing or currently thinking about doing a similar thing, we’d love to hear from you. We’ve learned quite a bit over the last couple of years we’ve been working on this partnership, and we are still trying to figure out how the relationship will change as the program becomes more established with time. Always open to learning/sharing.


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