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40 posts categorized "Grantmaking"

A Framework to Communicate Philanthropy

April 25, 2014

(Jeannine Corey is director of grants information management at the Foundation Center. A version of this post also appears on the GuideStar blog.)

Heasdhot_jeannine_coreyLanguage allows us to communicate complex ideas and acquire information using an agreed-on structure and process. Variations in language around the globe increase the level of effort needed to communicate with people across borders, but it's not impossible if you have a way to translate your ideas into a language others can understand.

The Foundation Center is currently undertaking the challenge of devising a language that can be used by philanthropic organizations around the world to tell the story of their work. That common language is crucial for a field as diverse as ours: not too long ago, we determined that U.S. foundations have more than two hundred and fifty ways to describe "general operating support"!

In 2012, the Foundation Center began to rethink the classification system that has been at the core of our work, a system largely based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities structure that we helped create thirty years ago. Given how much the sector has grown and evolved over the past few decades, updates to the taxonomy are critical in order for it to more accurately reflect the work of the field and serve as a relevant tool for a 21st-century global philanthropy community. Why is this important? Because a shared taxonomy makes it easier for grantseekers to find targeted support, helps funders collaborate with each other and identify potential grantees, and assists researchers and academics who are analyzing the work of the sector.

To that end, staff at the Foundation Center have spent eighteen months evaluating our codes, mining the text of the nearly five million grants and one million philanthropic institutions in our database, and cross-referencing that information against other international standards to inform the creation of a revised taxonomic system. Our goal is not to create another standard but to develop a framework that meets the needs of the sector and can serve as a language that organizations use to communicate their work to each other. For example, we've added new subject areas related to information and media, including associated technologies. We've replaced "type of support" with two new categories: support strategy, to reflect the goal or approach behind the actual support, and transaction type, to capture the various forms of philanthropy beyond the cash grant that happen around the world.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 29-30, 2014)

March 30, 2014

Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy items from and about the nonprofit sector....

April_showersCommunications/Marketing

In a guest post on the Communications Network blog, the Barr Foundation's Stefan Lanfer shares some lessons he and his colleagues have learned about communicating in times of change. The first two are simple but powerful: know what you want to communicate, by word and by deed; and know what you don't want to communicate. Check out Lanfer's the post for three more things the foundation got right.

Education Reform

Public school advocate Diane Ravitch has posted a draft version of of remarks made at an education conference earlier this month by Dissent contributor Joanne Barkan on the topic of how to criticize the role of "big philanthropy" in education reform

Fundraising

In today's New York Times, Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, lets readers in on a well-kept secret: Fundraising is fun. The "magic" of raising money for a cause or organization, writes Brooks,

goes even deeper than temporary happiness or extra income. It creates meaning. Donors possess two disconnected commodities: material wealth and sincere conviction. Alone, these commodities are difficult to combine. But fund-raisers facilitate an alchemy of virtue: They empower those with the financial resources to convert the dross of their money into the gold of a better society....

On the Relationship Science blog, Kathy Landau, executive director of the National Dance Institute in New York City, makes an impassioned case for seeing data and relationship building "as mutually beneficial rather than mutually exclusive."

Grantmaking

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Grant Coates, president and CEO of the Miles Foundation in Fort Worth, explains how a reevaluation of the foundation's grantee selection process helped him and his colleagues realize that leadership often is what separates a "good" grantee from a "great" grantee. "The presence of powerful leadership," Coates writes, "is almost tangible – it's a spirit that employees exude, a confidence that the organization embodies, and an impact that's measurable – true leadership is, in short, a game-changer in the grantee selection process."

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5 Questions for...Olga Lech, Philanthropic Account Supervisor, Geller & Company

March 20, 2014

As globalization, technology, and financial innovation combine to create great wealth – and great inequality – individual donors and foundations are under increasing pressure to be more nimble, more strategic, and to take more risks. Even as philanthropy struggles to respond to these challenges, the role of the philanthropy professional is evolving. Business as usual is out; managing complexity is the order of the day.

Earlier this week, PND spoke with Olga Lech, a philanthropic advisor at Geller & Company, about some of the changes roiling the field.

Headshot_ olgalechPhilanthropy News Digest: We often hear that it's harder to give a large fortune away than it is to make one. Do you agree?

Olga Lech: I think they are equally difficult, but in different ways. The level of complexity changes – sometimes significantly – depending on what it is you are trying to achieve. If you simply want to be charitable and support good causes to make the world a better place, you may look to donate to a local charity such as a church or school in your community with a year-end gift that supports their operations and/or mission. If you are looking to be a philanthropist, however, your giving will most likely be focused on longer-term programs that seek to address bigger social issues, which would most likely cause you to look at other components such as sustainability, governance, and the recruitment of staff and volunteers.

The difference between charity and philanthropy is really where the complexity comes into play. Another dimension is impact. Philanthropy often strives for the highest impact in terms of results and outcomes, which in this global age can also require international cooperation and logistics. This often means you need to follow and measure the results of the projects you fund. That said, both charity and philanthropy are equally noble endeavors, and choosing which to pursue is a highly personal decision based on a variety of factors, not the least of which is complexity. 

PND: What are the most common mistakes made by high-net-worth donors? And what can a good philanthropic advisor do to help them avoid such mistakes?

OL: It all begins with the personal vision of the wealth owner and the degree to which an advisor can help translate that into an effective plan in line with other wealth management elements such as taxes, investments, and even succession issues. The advisor role is to not judge the endeavor, but to help strengthen it. For example, the John Templeton Foundation gave a grant to establish an institute for research on unlimited love. If the donor or client came to me with this idea, my role would be to research it, identify the most effective way to advance the cause, outline the risk factors, and find the best ways to mitigate those risks to protect the client's assets. The beauty of private philanthropy is that it allows donors to fund projects, programs, and initiatives that no federal, state, or local government would have the freedom to fund. And many of these initiatives lead to breakthrough discoveries with impacts that touch many lives.

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The Re-Emerging Art of Funding Innovation

March 04, 2014

(Gabriel Kasper and Justin Marcoux are part of the Monitor Institute, a consultancy and think tank focused on philanthropy and social change that operates as part of Deloitte Consulting LLP.*)

As philanthropy has gotten more strategic over the last decade, many foundations have begun to lose their appetite for risk and experimentation. But a small number of funders have begun to intentionally seek out and support high-risk, high-reward innovations with the potential to truly transform our most intractable social challenges.

In our recent article, "The Re-Emerging Art of Funding Innovation," we explore the processes and practices used by these “innovation funders” and look at how funding breakthrough innovation differs from more traditional grantmaking approaches. The article is the cover story for the just-released Spring issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and can be found here on their site.

In the article, we share a process for intentionally injecting two interrelated innovation principles — transformation and experimentation — into philanthropic processes and systems in order to bring a greater degree of risk-taking, openness, and flexibility into funders’ work.

Although these approaches often take a different shape within each institution, innovation can typically be introduced at five different stages of the funding process: sourcing, selecting, supporting, measuring, and scaling. The article shares a series of stories illustrating what these activities look like in practice.

Illustration_stages_of_funding

While a formal innovation strategy requires thoughtful choices around structures, processes, networks, culture, and many other considerations, there are some simple ways that funders can begin to embed innovation principles in their work. Here are a few steps that a foundation could take to get started:

1. Make deliberate out-of-strategy grants. Dedicate 10 percent of your grantmaking budget to support projects that seem promising but don’t fit neatly into your strategy. Each quarter, hold a meeting to discuss what has been learned from this "out-of-strategy" grantmaking and how it could influence the rest of your work.

2. Ask your grantees. Grant recipients bring a perspective on the field very different from foundation staff's. Solicit ideas from your grantees about emerging ideas and who is doing work that is pushing the envelope.

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The ‘Fine Print’ of a Grant Agreement

February 07, 2014

(Steven Green is the director of grants management and administration for the Jim Joseph Foundation, which seeks to foster compelling, effective Jewish learning experiences for young Jews in the United States. In his previous post, he looked at how the budget review process can be used to strengthen a foundation-grantee partnership.)

Headshot_steven_greenOn one of my first days in Negotiations class at Goizueta Business School, Professor Earl Hill explained that the negotiation of terms was often more important than bargaining for price. Often, a car buyer will invest a multitude of hours doing research on the exact make, model, and even color of the vehicle he or she plans to purchase. After visiting multiple dealerships, comparing Blue Book prices, and even figuring out the appropriate trade-in value of an old vehicle, the buyer will enter the dealership ready to pay a price that is firmly fixed in his or her mind. The terms of the sale, including the financing, closing costs, documentation fee, and timing, may not figure into the customer's mindset, even though they greatly influence the overall cost of the vehicle.

How does this example, you're probably wondering, relate to a grantmaking foundation and a grantee that both want to achieve positive outcomes? Think of it this way: the "fine print" matters — and can be the difference between success and failure.

One way the Jim Joseph Foundation tries to ensure grantee success is by sending draft grant agreements to grantees that include explicit terms and conditions for grant payments. In the grant agreement, the goals of the grant itself are established by the foundation and, once established, are not altered. But the benchmarks of the grant are determined by the grantee. Only after the agreement has been reviewed and expectations are understood is the document finalized. The requested deliverables in the agreement generally include:

  • status update on the organization and program being funded;
  • progress on stated objectives and measures of success that were previously submitted;
  • annual or biannual budget reports and financial information (depending on the organization); and
  • projected dates and payment amounts.

Fundamentally, the foundation and grantee must reach a shared understanding on numerous items in order to agree on the terms and conditions of a grant award and payments. This understanding includes steps and a timeline for grant implementation; funds needed to support the implementation steps; monitoring activities; evaluation (and the expense associated with it); and other items.

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Minding the Ps and Ts of Funder Collaboration

December 06, 2013

(The following post was written by Nancy Jamison, executive director, San Diego Grantmakers, and Jennifer James, vice president of Harder+Company Community Research and a San Diego Grantmakers' funder collaboration consultant.)

Collaboration_clipartIf you are a grantmaker or work in the field of philanthropy, you understand the value of working with other funders and stakeholders to achieve shared goals. You're probably very familiar with the need to avoid working in "silos"; the power of "collaboration"; and how those things differ from "collective impact." And you almost certainly can relate to the fact that all of it is easier said than done.

At San Diego Grantmakers (SDG), a regional membership association for different types of funders, we have learned that even though the concept of working together seems straightforward, doing it is anything but. In many ways, however, grantmaker associations like ours are well positioned to facilitate collaboration among funders and across sectors. Among other things, we can be neutral conveners of grantmakers, service providers, infrastructure organizations, and business and civic leaders. And we can assist with communication and meeting coordination. As a result, this kind of support has emerged as a valued SDG member service.

The intensity and purpose of SDG's member collaborations varies. Some are learning groups comprised only of funders who meet occasionally to learn about topics of mutual interest. Sometimes this learning leads to aligned funding for specific nonprofits or projects. Sometimes it leads to convening or partnering with external stakeholders to do community problem solving or projects. We affectionately call this the "learning-to-doing continuum."

And so, though we certainly haven't discovered the foolproof, no-risk formula for successful collaboration, here are some lessons -- or collaboration "Ps & Ts" -- we've learned along the way:

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Designing a Responsive Granting Process

November 25, 2013

(Parker Mitchell co-founded and for ten years was co-CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada. He recently moved to New York and joined, as an expert-in-residence, the Blue Ridge Foundation, which funds and incubates new technology-based ventures that advance opportunity and upward mobility. This post originally appeared on the Foundation Center's GrantCraft blog.)

Headshot_parker_mitchellWe began with two questions:

  • Are leading nonprofits fully making use of the explosion of digital and online platforms to find new ways to up-end their program models, scale, and radically remake their programs so that they are more effective?
  • And if not, could we bring the investing principles of the technology world to help leading nonprofits find the time, money, and resources to experiment with digital platforms to change their program model?

Three months ago, Blue Ridge Foundation New York teamed up with leading software firm ThoughtWorks and the Parsons School of Design to create a grant program for poverty-related nonprofits that would try to bridge the effective organization/technology adoption gap.

We began by offering a package of support that included a combination of funding, incubation services, in-kind software support and design, and design thinking consulting. Each package was worth roughly $150,000. But we also knew we didn't have all the answers and wanted to design a transparent, responsive granting process that would help us pin-point nonprofits’ digital technology needs.

What is this gap, and why should funders care?

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Data, Research, and Knowledge Tools — Where and When You Need Them

November 12, 2013

(Lisa Philp serves as vice president for strategic philanthropy at the Foundation Center.)

Cover_media_impactEarlier today the Foundation Center, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Media Impact Funders, an affinity group of grantmakers, released a new report titled Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States (20 pages, PDF).

Headlines from the Research

As the most comprehensive and detailed picture of U.S. media-related funding by foundations to date, the research offers a number of new insights:

  • Media-related funding is substantial in size and scope -- 1,012 foundations made 12,040 media-related grants totaling $1.86 billion from 2009-11. If treated as a single category, media-related grantmaking would have ranked seventh in terms of domestic grantmaking in 2011, placing it just behind environment and ahead of science and technology, religion, and the social sciences.
  • Foundations increasingly are focused on media funding -- Media-related grantmaking grew at a faster rate than overall domestic grantmaking from 2009-11 (21 percent increase vs. 5.8 percent, respectively).
  • Funders are reacting to the changing landscape of media in the digital age -- New media investments (Web-based and mobile) outpaced those in traditional media (print, television, and radio) by a factor of four (116.5 percent increase vs. 29.4 percent, respectively).

These findings and many others will be discussed at a Media Impact Focus event on Wednesday, November 13, by a panel of media funders, filmmakers, journalists, and practitioners; analyzed in the coming weeks in blogs, columns, and op-ed pieces written by our project advisors and funders; and updated over time to track the story of how media grantmaking is evolving.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 9-10, 2013)

November 10, 2013

Colorful-autumn-leavesOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Collaboration

Collaboration is hard, writes Third Foundation founder Jon Huggett on the Markets for Good blog. But your odds of success are greatly improved if you follow these six simple rules:

  1. Share hard goals, not values.
  2. Measure for improving, not proving.
  3. Choose the change, not who is in charge.
  4. Share credit for successful ideas, not put the "genius" on a pedestal.
  5. Spread ideas, not organizations.
  6. Embrace competition, don't discourage it.

Education

Created by the Great Schools Partnership, the Glossary of Education Reform defines and describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies. Useful -- and a sharp presentation.

Health/Healthcare

"Like so many freshly minted doctors, I thought I had all the answers," writes Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on LinkedIn. But an indigent female patient, admitted "late on a winter night, homeless and helpless," taught her she didn't. "My medical training never taught me that how and where a patient lives, learns, works, and plays has more to do with his or her health than the treatments we were diligently learning. No one ever suggested that society is just as much our patient as that person waiting for us in the examining room. Our care ended at the front door of the hospital -- and that wasn’t far enough...."

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Collaborative Technologies: Reducing the Friction in the System

November 07, 2013

(Gabriel Kasper is a senior manager at the Monitor Institute, a consultancy and think tank focused on philanthropy and social change that operates as part of Deloitte Consulting LLP.)

Headshot_gabriel_kasperEarlier today, the Monitor Institute and the Foundation Center released a new report called Harnessing Collaborative Technologies: Helping Funders Work Together Better (44 pages, PDF). As part of the research, we looked at more than a hundred and seventy different technological tools now available to funders, dove deeply into the literature on philanthropic collaboration, analyzed the results of recent Foundation Center surveys, and spoke with a wide range of experts from the worlds of both technology and philanthropy.

The report's main headlines won't come as a huge surprise to anyone: (1) more than ever before, funders are recognizing that they need to collaborate to effectively address the complex, intractable problems we now face; and (2) new technologies -- from simple group scheduling tools to comprehensive online collaboration workspaces -- are now available to help facilitate the often challenging process of working together.

But there's a deeper story beneath the headlines about how these emerging technologies are enabling new types of collaborations that weren't possible (or were more difficult) just a few years ago.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 4-5, 2013)

October 06, 2013

Shutdown_buttonOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Arts and Culture

In recent years, school districts across the country have had to restructure their arts curriculums to meet the growing emphasis on standards and the Common Core, while trying to manage with shrinking resources and support for arts education. To celebrate Funding for Arts Month here at the Foundation Center, our colleagues at IssueLab have pulled together a unique collection of reports, case studies, evaluations and white papers focused on the potential benefits of arts education for students and communities alike, complete with examples of the creative ways school districts are dealing with their funding constraints and challenges.

Communications/Marketing

Guest blogging from the Communications Network 2013 Annual Conference in New Orleans earlier this week, Liz Wainger, president of the Wainger Group, reminds readers of Kris Putnam-Walkerly's Philanthropy411 blog that while "data is an essential part of storytelling,...without a narrative you simply have data -- no passion, no call to action, no inspiration. And without data, you have raw emotion hanging in the wind."

For more great coverage of the Commnetwork conference, check out these guest posts by Liz Banse, vice president at Resource Media; Norris West, director of strategic communications at the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Elizabeth Miller, communications associate at the Knight Foundation; and Avalee Weir, communications manager at the Ian Potter Foundation in Australia.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 28-29, 2013)

September 29, 2013

Ty-mattson-breaking-bad-02Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Civil Society

How are market forces, public policies, and digital technologies changing nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, and associational life at the heart of civil society? That's one of the questions the Project on Philanthropy, Policy, and Technology at Stanford's Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society set out to answer last year through a series of monthly charettes. Now, the fruits of those conversations (and a lot of good, hard thinking) have been captured in a series of reports issued by the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford PACS. Written by Lucy Bernholz, Chiara Cordelli, and Rob Reich, the reports -- The Emergence of Digital Civil Society (42 pgaes, PDF); Social Economy Policy Forecast 2013: Project on Philanthropy, Policy, and Technology (38 pages, PDF); Good Fences: The Importance of Institutional Boundaries in the New Social Economy (18 pages, PDF); and The Shifting Ground Beneath Us: Framing Nonprofit Policy for the Next Century (30 pages, PDF) -- are thought-provoking, deeply researched, and a pleasure to read. They're also available as free downloads from the Stanford PACS site.

Responding to Dan Pallotta's hugely popular TED Talk -- and echoing some of the conclusions arrived at by Bernholz, Reich, and Cordelli in their Recode Good work -- Ashoka's Valeria Budinich suggests that one of the most important points made by Pallotta in his talk (and first book) is a point everyone chooses to ignore: Philanthropy's moral foundations -- and the resulting legal and policy framework in which it operates -- have remained largely unchanged since the 1700s.

Climate Change

The most exhaustively researched climate report in history is out -- and, as environmental journalist Richard Schiffman explains in The Atlantic, its findings are grim.

For those as troubled by the findings of the report as Schiffman is, the UN Foundation's Kathy Calvin has some words of encouragement.

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Dear Abby’s Advice to a Funder

September 11, 2013

(Allison Shirk is a freelance grantwriter based in the Northwest. In her last article, she offered some tips for making your volunteer board members feel appreciated.)

***

Headshot_allison_shirkDear Abby:

It's been a while since I wrote. I've been busy going through grant proposals -- lots and lots of proposals. In fact, that's why I'm writing. We love nonprofits, our grantees especially. Without them, we couldn't succeed. But there are so many of them, and they all want funding -- even organizations that work in areas that have nothing to do with our programs and initiatives. I do my best to give every application the attention it deserves, but, really, things are getting out of hand. What's a funder to do?

As a grantwriter, I'm pretty sure my clients aren't the only organizations frustrated by the grant application process. Funders are, too. Over the last decade, many social and environmental problems have gotten worse; the number of nonprofits looking for funding has grown; and the stock and bond markets have subjected most portfolio managers to a ride they'd probably like to forget. I don't suppose many funders, harried or otherwise, turn to Dear Abby for advice. But if they did, here's what she might she say....

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After Overhead: Investing in Nonprofit Financial Fitness

September 03, 2013

(Rebecca Thomas is a vice president at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, where she has strategic responsibility for national arts initiatives, funder partnerships, and product development efforts that advance NFF's profitability, visibility and impact.)

Headshot_rebecca_thomasRecent efforts to end the overhead myth are to be applauded. But they don't go far enough. Funders also need to focus on nonprofit resiliency.

Increasingly, funders understand that "overhead" costs directly support an organization's ability to deliver results and that the overhead ratio shouldn't be used as a simplistic indicator of an organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. The bigger opportunity here, however, is to go beyond funding the full costs of delivering specific services to build an organization's financial strength through surpluses and savings.

After all, many nonprofit organizations that routinely fund their administrative and fundraising expenses often are operating perilously close to the financial brink. They lack the resources to develop innovative approaches to service delivery, take calculated operational risks, manage unexpected funding shortfalls, and cultivate new, more reliable streams of revenue. The loss of one big government contract, an unanticipated facility emergency, or a period of economic distress can be enough to push these agencies over the edge.

Nonprofit Finance Fund's 2013 State of the Sector survey showed that, three years after the official end of the recession, the majority of nonprofits are still unable to address the needs of people and communities they serve. While more than 70 percent funded overhead by bringing in enough revenue to cover their expenses, only 48 percent reported an ability to meet service demand, and 90 percent said the outlook for people they serve will be less certain or the same in the coming year.

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Philanthropy and the Open Society: A Q&A With Christopher Stone, President, Open Society Foundations

August 22, 2013

Headshot_christopher_stone"George Soros once told a group of people he and I were speaking to that my appointment signaled no change in the Open Society Foundations, because change had been a constant since OSF's birth and would continue into the foreseeable future," said Christopher Stone when we spoke to him earlier this year.  "And that certainly applies to our funding priorities."

Since Stone joined the Open Society Foundations as president in 2012, many have wondered how, if at all, the change in leadership might affect the global network of philanthropies started and funded by Soros, the hedge fund billionaire. After all, Stone succeeded Open Society's founding president, Aryeh Neier, a former executive director of Human Rights Watch, national director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a close Soros friend who led the foundation for nearly twenty years, helping "to make...[it] into a truly international organization." With foundations in dozens of countries around the world, it was unclear -- and concerning to some -- how Stone intended to "streamline" what Soros previously had described in an interview with the New York Times as "a very complex organization." But, as Stone told us when we spoke with him, what Soros was alluding to was nothing more than new ways of organizing the Foundations' work so that it could "achieve more with each grant, program, and strategy."

Before joining Open Society, Stone served as Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Prior to that, he served as director of the Vera Institute of Justice, founded the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, and served as a founding director of the New York State's Capital Defender Office and the Altus Global Alliance.

PND spoke with Stone in May and followed up with him via e-mail earlier this month.

Philanthropy News Digest: You were once described by Open Society founder George Soros as an "outsider insider." What did he mean?

Christopher Stone: I think he meant that I've been associated with the Open Society Foundations since the 1990s, but I haven't truly been inside the organization. I've been an advisory board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative since 2004 and an occasional advisor and grantee of the organization since the Open Society Institute was created in 1993. But I've been outside the organization in the sense that I haven't worked directly for Open Society, and I haven't been on any of its governing boards, until now. I can appreciate the organization and understand its history, but I don't have the commitments and am not wedded to any particular elements of the foundations that George Soros, I think, is hoping we will be reviewing over this transition.

PND: What has your varied experience taught you about the potential and limits of philanthropy?

CS: Over the years, I've known a number of foundation presidents and worked with many foundations, occasionally as an informal advisor and mostly as a grantee. Among other things, I've learned that, like other fields, the philanthropic sector is all about relationships; that foundations vary tremendously from one to another; and that they are really dependent in all sorts of ways on their grantees. Not just to execute the projects they support, but to help define and inform their sense of the field. Foundations work hard at getting outside opinions and observations. But it's a hard thing to do, and I think the mutual dependence of foundations on grantees, and grantees on foundations, is not as obvious to a lot of people who assume that the grantee is a supplicant and the foundation has all the cards.

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