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Many of the lessons in the report can be applied to any stage of an organization’s development, but they are especially critical considerations for those just getting started. Based on the responses received, three key elements for success stuck out.
First, an early-stage grantmaking organization must have leadership characterized by humility, courage, and resourcefulness. If you are invested in your team, it empowers staff to do the work that’s needed to invest in your programs and the communities you serve. When we were determining the hallmark values that would lead the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s work, we learned how important it was to engage every employee in the process of shaping those values. When every employee understands what the organization’s values mean, it allows them to in turn serve as effective ambassadors for the organization.
Second, philanthropies must establish a shared understanding among donors, board members, staff, and grantees about how the organization will approach its work. Like many of our peers, our work at Helmsley is driven by the voices and needs of the people we serve. Over the past 10 years, we have worked alongside our grantees to provide partnership and support that extends beyond the grants themselves — whether that’s through helping them foster additional connections or grapple with new ideas.
Third, it’s critical that each organization has a sense of what success looks like, as well as an orientation toward learning. Private foundations have a unique opportunity to enact change. To do so, you must have a willingness to take risks and maximize impact. For us, this means a commitment to continuous learning and looking to the future. We reflect, assess, and strive to improve every day.
Read the full article about new philanthropic organizations by Stephanie Cuskley at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.