Thursday, November 29, 2007

EPIP Emerges in the Heartland

I am happy to report that emerging philanthropic leaders are organizing powerful new Emerging Practitioners networks in communities across Middle America. This is a critical part of our work to bring our unique brand of leadership development to the Southeast and the Midwest, communities sadly overlooked by many national philanthropy organizations.

During Oct-Nov, Minnesota and Indiana chapters were officially recognized by the national EPIP organization. The leaders of these groups did initial partnership-building, organizing and programming for more than a year before applying to become official EPIP chapters.

More recently, a group of our members in Michigan began working with EPIP and the Michigan Council of Foundations - one of the premiere Regional Associations of Grantmakers in the nation - to lay the groundwork for an EPIP Michigan network.

And the EPIP buzz in Michigan has already begun.

Today an article about the group was published on "MI Life MI Times", a new website offering "a fresh discourse on life in Michigan for and by the young, creative people living in this state."

The site proclaims that "within Michigan’s philanthropic sector lies a group of new, young professionals hard at work. Their goal: to address the increasing need for a next generation of leadership."

Read the whole article online at

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

EPIP Feature: A View From the Field
by an anonymous program officer

"What's the best career background for a foundation program officer?" This is a question I've been thinking about a lot, as the foundation I work for begins to hire a new program officer. Naturally, the answer depends a lot on the foundation in question and how it does its work. That said, the question makes me think about my experiences and what's been most useful to me where I work.

I came to the foundation world a couple of years ago, so my experience is still pretty limited. Before that, I did lots of different things. I spent a long time teaching as a graduate student while (unsuccessfully) pursuing a doctorate in sociology. I was an evaluation researcher for hire. I worked in information technology for a large not-for-profit. Finally, I worked as a senior administrator for a large not-for-profit. Of these experiences, the skills I draw on the most as a program officer are those I developed while teaching at the college level.

Some of the relevant skills and awarenesses I developed while teaching college students include:
* learning about the responsibility associated with power,
* the ability to read critically,
* clear communication,
* self-reflection,
* the importance of universal standards,
* how to help without giving away the "right" answers, and
* getting comfortable with public speaking.

The guest blogger will address each of these skills separately in individual posts. Stay tuned for these updates!

Are you interested in serving as a guest blogger? Contact today!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Searching for the point in philanthropy 2.0

All of a sudden there is a flurry of discussion in philanthropy blogs and conferences using terms like "open source philanthropy", philanthropy 2.0, etc. See for example Fil 2.0: Facebook Filanthropy.

Full disclosure: I am helping out a bit with a conference session titled 'Philanthropic Models 2.0', which will take place at the May 2008 Council on Foundations Summit. I am very excited to hear what folks working in the social networking realm have to say about their nonprofit and philanthropic initiatives and technologies. But I am also perplexed by the emerging language to describe all this.

Is philanthropy 2.0 the "new new philanthropy"? It is difficult to parse out if there is a "there" virtually there.

In terms of open source philanthropy, a term I recently picked up when Peter Karoff spoke at the Minnesota Council of Foundations annual conference, I am still working to understand how the web can truly facilitate democracy in philanthropy, when -- if we are talking about foundations and grantmaking -- much of the power and a majority of philanthropic funds residesin the hands of people who do not have an online presence and may not even use the web themselves: unstaffed family foundations and individual donors.

Such innovation in this field seems to happen in this order:
  1. An exciting-sounding new phrase or concept gets coined to define the moment;
  2. People try to bundle their ideas under this ruberic, so it means everyone (and nothing);
  3. Researchers are hored to write reports that definition the term, so everyone can move on to a new confusing catch phrase...
Whatever happened to New Philanthropy? Venture Philanthropy? e-Philanthropy? Is Philanthropy 2.0 different or just an extension of these? We seem to create whole new categories and supposed trends, and they seem to disappear when the pundits discover something new.

The same can be said for social entreprenuarialism - it is very difficult to find agreement on what we are talking about when we use that phrase.

In fact, the basic words and titles for our field as a whole are very confusing. Are we the nonprofits, nongovernment, independent, or third sector? Or should we be dubbed civil society, the term more popular with scholars?

Michael Edwards of the Ford Foundation, a prolific writer on these matters, asks of the term civil society: "What is to be done with a concept that seems so unsure of itself that definitions are akin to nailing jelly to the wall?" I think this question apt for the concept of philanthropy 2.0.

So please, let's stop playing "Pin-the-2.0-on-the-Topic" and start using the web in practical and innovative ways to advance ethical, effective philanthropy. A good, basic place to start would be convincing and enabling a lot more non-staffed family foundations to get their information on the web, so that future grantees can find them more easily! The Foundation Center provides such a service.

Another solid idea is PhilanTrack™, an online grants management system for nonprofits and funders. This is an innovative online system for managing grant proposals and reporting that "enhances accountability, transparency, and efficiency."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'm a "do-gooder."

This Washington Post article from Friday highlights the challenge of pursuing a career in the international non-profit sector: upward mobility (and labels folks working in the non-profit sector "do-gooders"). The Chronicle on Philanthropy's Daily Update linked this WaPo article to an article the Chronicle published in March on the YNPN survey, which found that 70 percent of young non-profit employees do not envision themselves as executive directors of non-profits in the future. Tell us what you think - can this change? What needs to happen for you to stay in the field?