I was at a dinner recently with a group of educators and administrators – high school principals, school district superintendents, a college dean – and the discussion, as one might expect, veered into the tremendous challenges facing public school districts in the current budget climate in California. While we all lamented the fact that in public education all are being forced to do more with less – less staff, less resources, more demands – there are no easy solutions to this dilemma.
As the old saying goes, challenges present opportunities. As we sat around the table, the discussion started to focus on how schools and districts might work together, on how higher education and K-12 districts in the same area could partner to sustain programs, provide vital services to students and teachers both, perhaps even seek external funding for such ideas.
As the discussion turned to fundraising, the first comments focused on the need for private funding just to sustain what schools are already doing. There was disappointment in the fact that corporate partners and philanthropic foundations did not seem to have interest in contributing funds to the region despite doing so in other regions. And there were no clear answers as to how or why this “oversight” was occurring. Continue reading
Interesting link between the philosophy of taking risks on unproven players (like current NBA New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin) and the importance of taking risks in philanthropy – both as donors and as non-profit organizations reliant upon philanthropic dollars.
This quote from Nathan Cummings Foundation trustee Jaimie Mayer Phinney stuck with me: “I think we really need to take risks. The reason why nonprofits aren’t taking risks is because they are worried about losing funding. And the reason why philanthropists aren’t taking risks is because we are worried about being good stewards to the money.”
I’ve spoken and written in the past on the importance of thinking entrepreneurially – even more so in tough times. Organizations that simply retreat and become more conservative in down times will not be well-positioned to benefit from good times, and in fact run the risk of alienating their donors and constituents. It’s never more important to tell your story and steward relationships than in tough times when donors are themselves more apt to retreat and become more conservative with their giving. If you aren’t telling your story and maintaining those relationships, a dozen other non-profits will take your place quickly, and will benefit from donors’ philanthropy when times improve.