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The Next Four Years: Keep Moving Forward

November 16, 2016

Keep-moving-forwardA week ago, the country was in a totally different place than it is today. Regardless of your personal politics, there's no denying we are entering uncertain times. Like everyone else, grantmakers are looking around, trying to figure out how we got here, and making their best guesses about the lay of the land in the months to come. Here are seven things that you might want to consider as you think about the next four years:

1. Don't beat yourself up. The election outcome made it clear that many of us in philanthropy have overlooked the sentiments of a silent but seething portion of the population. While it's great to reflect and think about what your blinders may have been in the past, we all need to learn from what happened and move on. We have important work to do.

2. Don't gut your strengths. Just because the world has changed doesn't mean your work has been misguided. For example, as a field we have made great strides in racial equity and inclusion, and we simply can't drop that focus now. We must recognize that, just as with the stock market, we shouldn't allow short-term reactions to affect our long-term goals. If your early childhood strategy was working last week, it will work next week, and next month, and next year (albeit with a few tweaks and adjustments).

3. Take time to learn, but not too much. When seismic shifts occur, foundations have a tendency to hunker down and look for the underlying causes of those shifts in an effort to avoid similar events in the future. But avoiding change is impossible, and trying to cocoon oneself in a safety net of knowledge is akin to remaining in the bomb shelter after the air raid has ended. If you want to avoid being left behind by change, it's imperative that you learn in real time.

4. Develop systems for ongoing learning and rapid course correction. It's likely that the rapid pace of change we all have experienced will only accelerate. You need to have a plan in place now to keep track of new developments. Identify your go-to resources and start communicating your expectations for how and what staff needs to learn and share. Examine the decision-making processes within your foundation and figure out how you can make them more nimble and responsive to change without losing the focus on your overall mission.

5. Model inclusiveness. There has been, and no doubt will continue to be, a great deal of talk about stereotypes of people of color, immigrants, Muslims, "cosmopolitan elites" (whatever that means), and others. But we all know that creating new boxes with jargon-y labels and stuffing people into them isn't very helpful. Instead, we must remember that a focus on equity includes everyone, from an inner-city single mom of color in New York City, to a working class white male in rural Nebraska, to a Ph.D. policy wonk in San Francisco. No matter what our grantmaking focus, it is up to us to bring people together to address it. As a client recently reminded me, when we talk about the impact of the election, we should consider it through the various lenses and perspectives that are now in play.

6. Get off the bench. If you haven't supported policy advocacy, community organizing, or civic engagement work in the past, now may be the time to think about making an investment. And if you have supported this kind of work in the past, consider redoubling your commitment. We live in a democracy where the voices of those in need are encouraged and heard, and we should take advantage of that fact. The Funders Committee for Civic Participation and Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement are good places to start.

7. Demonstrate the power of philanthropy. The day after the election, Henry Berman, the CEO of Exponent Philanthropy, wrote in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, "Starting now, foundations and donors of all types should be speaking up and talking about the ways our communities benefit from grant makers of all sizes and types." He's right. Thanks to the media scrutiny of the Trump and Clinton foundations, philanthropy got a bad rap during the campaign. We need to speak up – honestly, openly, meaningfully, and loudly, if need be – about all the good philanthropy does and the fact that we will continue to work to bring about positive change.

Headshot_KPWGlobal philanthropy advisor Kris Putnam-Walkerly recently was named one of "America's Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers." This post originally appeared in Kris's Confident Giving Newsletter and is reposted here with permission. ©2016 Kris Putnam-Walkerly, Putnam Consulting Group, putnam-consulting.com.

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Posted by Cynthia  |   November 21, 2016 at 04:41 PM

No wonder no comments have been posted. This is a ridiculous article. If a philanthropy has been doing meaningful work there is no reason to think anything will change because of this past election. If anything, there will be more funds available for worthwhile charities.

Posted by Leah odongo  |   November 21, 2016 at 05:11 PM

I found this article particularly useful. Thanks Kris!

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