A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Funders Reflect on the Craft of Catalyzing Change in Exponent’s New Podcast Series

Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash

How would philanthropy be different if foundation leaders spent most of their time out in the community listening, learning and engaging with people?

In my work at Exponent Philanthropy, I interview hundreds of staff, trustees and donors of small, place-based foundations. I’ve learned that many organize their work in this way—seeing themselves not as grantmakers, but as conveners, coaches, matchmakers, advocates, capacity builders and organizers.

The insights emerging from these conversations inspire and remind me that philanthropy is so much more than applications and checks. The creativity, resourcefulness and passion of these small foundation leaders is astounding. Catalytic funders are creating a new kind of philanthropy, shifting from the transactional to the transformational. Hear about their work, in their own voices.

My podcast guests explore:

  • What makes small foundations creative?
  • How do they make impact far beyond their size?
  • What powers and resources do they use–beyond money?
  • Why are lean funders often the first to notice and support breakthrough solutions?
  • How do they build civic participation and advance equity?
  • How do they catalyze change?

In our four debut podcasts, meet:

  • Mary Anthony, who bets on new ideas and helps revitalize and reinvigorate organizations and fields, while unleashing creativity and sparking new collaborations.
  • John Richardson, who finds creative entrepreneurs and provides their very first grants, plus the encouragement to begin turning powerful ideas into reality.
  • Sheena Solomon, whose practice of “proximity” empowers her foundation to understand needs in the community, do capacity building and advance equity.
  • Michael Weinberg, who explores how successful advocacy work is grounded in research and data, collaboration and focused persistence.

Humility, inquisitiveness and passion are qualities that make me want to keep learning from these creative funders. I hope you enjoy meeting them, and learning how small, agile foundations are redefining philanthropy.

Podcast Library


Andy Carroll, senior advisor at Exponent Philanthropy, advises staff, trustees, and donors of leanly staffed foundations in leadership, advocacy and catalytic philanthropy. He works to empower more small foundations to leverage their unique position and assets to catalyze change. Andy has an MBA from the University of Michigan Business School and 30 years of experience in management, training, and program development for nonprofit organizations.

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