Power is taboo. We’re uncomfortable that some wield greater strength and influence, and use it to hold sway over others. In spite of our laws and regulations, our checks and balances, our moral and social norms nurturing restraint and respect, people use power to bend rules; exclude and disenfranchise; distort facts and disseminate misinformation; manufacture fear; and secure preferential treatment.

Disillusioned, some of us retreat into silence, and lose sight of our own agency and power. But what if more funders intentionally use their power for good?

In my work helping small-staffed foundations and donors step into leadership roles, I have learned that the most dynamic, effective funders use their power judiciously—but boldly. In a paradoxical way, the source of their power is passion, curiosity, and humility. First and foremost, these funders are great listeners. They don’t begin by thinking they know the answers; they venture out to ask questions. They realize that as funders they have unique perspective, unique access to experts, and unique abilities to soak up knowledge. They venture deeper into their issues, until they figure out things no one else has really understood, and discern how to make change.

The journey takes them far beyond making grants, to convene, mobilize, commission research, raise public awareness, advocate, and put pressure on stakeholders to stay on course. They become activists, brokers, and catalysts.

Read the full article about power by Andy Carroll at Exponent Philanthropy.