Until he retired, my friend Chet was a junior high school shop teacher. I remember visiting his classroom and seeing the walls lined with tools. “For every job there is a tool,” he said. Having done my share of home repair over the years, I know how true that is. As a funder, I’ve also gained an appreciation of how important and helpful good tools can be in refining and supplementing my skills.
This summer, I plan to add two new tools to my toolkit. I hope you will consider them as well.
- The first, Power Moves, is designed to help funders assess where we stand on issues of equity and justice. Recently developed by a respected group of sector leaders under the auspices of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, it addresses issues that should be of concern to all of us, regardless of our funding area or priorities. It includes a step-by-step self-assessment of what we’re doing well and what we can do better in promoting equity and, in turn, social justice. It has caused me to think—always a good thing to do.
- The second, new from Exponent Philanthropy, resulted from our work the past two years to explore ways to strengthen funder–grantee relationships. The Great Funder–Nonprofit Relationships toolkit is designed to help funders recognize the aspects of great relationships with our nonprofit partners, assess our competencies, and consider ways to improve how we work with one another. Many ideas in this toolkit were generated by funders and nonprofits during a series of half-day programs around the country, hosted in partnership with the National Council of Nonprofits and with funding from the Fund for Shared Insight. In all honesty, I’ll share that when I started to really pay attention to how I, as a funder, participate in relationships with applicants and grantees, those bonds have improved.
What I appreciate about both tools is that they support me in making decisions that are right for me, my co-trustee, and our foundation. The tools are not prescriptive or judgmental, yet they are catalysts to improve my thinking about how I practice the craft of philanthropy. I encourage you to consider using them to improve your practice.
Another lesson I learned from Chet is not to fear picking up a new tool, practicing, learning, and then deciding about its value to your work. I still have lots to learn after 15 years of grantmaking, and I know these tools will help me do just that.
Henry Berman became Exponent Philanthropy’s CEO in 2011, previously serving as acting CEO, board member, and committee member. Through his experience as a foundation co-trustee and Exponent Philanthropy member since 2003, he brings a firsthand understanding of the needs of members to his role.