News and Insights

Try “Putting Something in the Middle” and "Free-Writing" to Reflect on Grantmaking Strategy

11/09/2018

Dara Weinerman Steinberg, Guest Contributor | Are you curious about how to create a routine that allows you or your team to reflect on your philanthropic practice? Dara Weinerman Steinberg, Executive Director of Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, shares her experience wrangling time to reflect and how it has reinvigorated her belief in the value of informal learning from strategy. more »

Scrum Techniques for Cross-Team Collaboration & Communication

04/20/2017

Kelley Bevans, Information Technology Specialist | Internal communications pose a significant challenge for organizations with growing teams, expanding services and complex collaborations. Philanthropy Northwest has all of the above, with the additional time zone quirks of our six-state membership network and national consulting team. As part of my ongoing work to help improve our internal communications, I've been leading staff through an experiment in Scrum, "a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value." I first learned about Scrum during my earlier career as a consultant in the tech industry, where it's a widely-used technique in software development, consulting and delivery. But I've long thought that this technique has a lot to offer the nonprofit sector, too, where teams need to constantly generate and reprioritize ideas as we learn more about their impacts on our communities. more »

How We Fund Scientific Research

03/24/2017

Craig W. Stewart, Apex Foundation and Bruce R. McCaw Family Foundation | How can philanthropists amplify the impact of their investments in scientific research and accelerate medical cures? Regardless of one’s motivations, strategic philanthropic investments in biomedical research require a careful consideration of the philanthropist’s priorities and an understanding of the current state of research to achieve satisfactory results, if not substantial ones. Apex Foundation recently joined efforts with the Milken Institute Philanthropy Advisory Service Institute to undertake a landscape analysis of current and best practices and produce a primer for funders that addresses the challenges that come with supporting scientific research in academic institutions. The 38-page report, Giving Smarter Guide for Funding Scientific Research, walks prospective funders through the process with a series of questions and key takeaways. more »

The Power of Networking: Lessons from Dreamforce

11/18/2016

Kelley Bevans, Information Technology Specialist | Confession: I had avoided Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference in the past, thinking its huge size would be so overwelming that it would be of no benefit to my work. This year’s gathering brought 170,000 attendees to San Francisco, the equivalent of 20% of the city's population. I could suddenly relate to some of Philanthropy Northwest's newer members, figuring out our suite of workshops and resources, and where they fit in our six-state network of family funds, foundations and corporate giving programs. In both cases, it's helpful to focus on smaller subgroups for shared learning, keep an open mind, find your balance and have fun. more »

From Confetti to Ecosystem Change: What's Your Corporate Philanthropy Strategy?

02/23/2016

Kristen Holway, Director of Learning Strategy | Corporate philanthropists face a set of unique challenges — internal and external expectations — in our sector. They must balance the desire to support their communities and be a force for good, while continuing to provide value to shareholders, engage employees and demonstrate quantifiable results. For even the most experienced and well-intentioned executives, finding and managing a CSR strategy that shifts these competing priorities into complementary goals can prove complex. These challenges brought executives from a dozen companies together, including Philanthropy Northwest members Bank of America, BECU, Microsoft Philanthropies, Premera Blue Cross and REI, for a workshop on best practices for transforming existing CSR portfolios into results-focused, business-aligned societal engagement. more »

Nine Predictions for Philanthropy in 2016

01/12/2016

Jeff Clarke, CEO | Welcome to 2016! Philanthropy’s core DNA is love for humanity and community. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we celebrate a unique philanthropic culture marked by optimism, generosity, civic engagement and stewardship. It rests upon our nation’s unique commitment to philanthropic freedom and donor intent. But above all, our big, diverse place defines us, from Alaska’s North Slope to southern Oregon, and the Pacific coast to eastern Montana and Wyoming. In other words, as American farmer and writer Wendell Berry observed, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” Looking ahead to what is sure to be a dynamic year, philanthropy, with its ability to gather people around the public good, is more important than ever. more »

Introducing DIY Strategy Improvements: 10 Activities for Community Foundations

11/16/2015

Jan Jaffe and Mark Sedway, The Giving Practice | How do you feel about strategy? Most philanthropy practitioners we work with feel ambivalent at best. For most of us, signing up to do strategic planning is about as energizing as arranging to get your teeth cleaned. It has the oppressive quality of someone doing something to you rather than being in charge of your own health, especially when you bring evidence of poor self-care to the appointment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In the same way that flossing and brushing your teeth will make that appointment less painful, we’ve seen how foundations that treat their strategy not as a discrete planning process but as ongoing practice, and use bite-size activities to make the experience manageable and fun, come out the other side with their strategy gleaming and in good health. more »

Surfing the Boundary Between Order and Chaos

10/27/2015

Ted Lord, The Giving Practice | In my experience, philanthropy too often stays in its safe spot, privileging white-paper expertise over lived experience, inviting compliance rather than building a plan together with the deep understanding that participants bring multiple forms of capital — influence, lived experience, community connectedness, time and energy — in addition to potential grant dollars. Is philanthropy’s job to underwrite what has an established track record? Or is it to provide the risk capital for demonstration projects or the resources for best-in-class organizations to pursue their highest-return ideas? more »

Investing in Justice: Where Do We Go From Here?

07/28/2015

Kristen Holway, Senior Manager, Learning Practice | Knowing that nearly half of all low-income Montanans experience at least one civil legal problem each year that goes unaddressed, the Montana Access to Justice Commission, with support from Philanthropy Northwest member Montana Justice Foundation, conducted a study to better understand the gaps and barriers to civil legal aid access. Their findings have implications for funders across all states and all sectors — and have us asking ourselves whether there is a need for broader conversation. more »

Poster-based sorting exercise: Molly McLeod/Code for America

Sort It Out Amongst Yourselves

06/10/2015

Audrey Haberman, Managing Partner, The Giving Practice | People often assume that everyone else agrees on certain fundamentals like strategy, values or approach. Sometimes they do; other times not so much. To draw out these assumptions, we have used a range of sorting exercises that can be both enlightening and thought-provoking. more »

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