A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Foundations, Know Thyself

I’ve been on local television for nearly 30 years, and the recognition that comes with it (especially to an older demographic) drives my 9-year-old son crazy. So when a middle-aged gentleman stopped me in the parking lot of a local restaurant a couple weeks ago, and wanted to know if I was “the news man,” Nick the Charming Scoundrel sighed and asked:

“Are you like the Old People’s Celebrity?”

It is what it is. I’m not sure how he specifically defines ‘old people’ (I remember thinking my Dad at 45 had to be the most ancient human being on the planet), but his analysis struck a chord with me when it came to giving. I mean, I could deny that most of the people who call my name at a ballgame or conference are over 30, but that is pretty much the truth.

So my philanthropic takeaway is: Don’t try to be something you’re not, especially if it takes your foundation away from its core mission and the passions of your board members.

Now, I am most certainly not saying your foundation shouldn’t be open to new horizons, new causes, new challenges; heck, I’m a big believer that a foundation should revisit its mission statement every 3-5 years, particularly when the next generation starts to play a larger role. The passions of the parents aren’t necessarily the passions of the children, right?

I think what it comes down to is being self-aware of your foundation’s strengths and weaknesses, and those of your board members. Just because it’s a great cause doesn’t always mean you’re the right philanthropic entity to take the nonprofit to the next level. You hear Mark Cuban say it all the time on the ABC TV show Shark Tank: “I’m not the right fit.” or “I wouldn’t be the right partner for you on this.” This doesn’t mean you can’t help; but what it does mean is your assistance might be better served as a second-tier partner, a silent partner, or a door-opening and introduction-providing partner.

You can’t be everything to everyone, because, if you try to be, your intended impact will often be watered down, as will your attention to the issues that should matter most. This realization is quite humbling too, because, as philanthropists, even the most humble of us sometimes see ourselves as the cavalry coming over the hill and riding in for the rescue. Philanthropic pride can lead us astray, into waters where perhaps we shouldn’t be swimming.

You are who you are. And that’s o.k.

Even if you’re the “Old People’s Celebrity.”

Scott Brazda is executive director of The Stuller Family Foundation. For 16 years, he served as a news and sports anchor at KATC-TV in Lafayette, LA, during which time he won seven Associated Press awards. He currently hosts the “Spirit of Acadiana” segment profiling good people doing good things. Scott is a committee member for the United Way of Acadiana and Community Foundation of Acadiana, board member of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations, and faculty member of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette communications department.

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