Successful organizations and people have at least one thing in common: they are honest with themselves about their strengths and limitations. As executive director of a mid-sized foundation, I know we do not possess the human capital or spending power to single-handedly turn around a low-performing school district, transform a continuum of care for homeless families, or align a workforce-to-livable-wage ecosystem. As such, we work tirelessly to build both public and private partnerships as well as leverage subject matter experts in pursuit of those goals.

There are several key questions funders must ask themselves when deciding whether to fund a project or launch a foundation-driven initiative:

  1. Does this work/project align with our stated mission, vision, and values? If not, how can we connect this organization or work to other funders?
  2. If we choose to engage in this work/project, are there other organizations or governmental entities supporting the same or similar work? If so, how can we avoid duplication and align our resources as partners and co-investors?
  3. What do we know about the ecosystem in which this work/project functions?
  4. Do we have the requisite subject matter expertise to engage in this work? If not, how can we develop it internally and/or identify prospective partners with such expertise?
  5. Any endeavor to bring forth sustainable, transformational change will not occur within the confines of foundation grant cycles or reporting deadlines. As such, do we possess the necessary patience and fortitude to make long-term investments?

Read the full article about translating potential to effectiveness by Anthony Richardson at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.