The reason Friends of the Children exists today is because Duncan Campbell, a Portland philanthropist who founded one of the first timber investment firms in the world, willed it into existence 25 years ago.

Friends of the Children has grown from a small but ambitious program with three Friends mentoring 24 kids in Northeast Portland to a $25 million organization with 160 Friends mentoring 1,700 children across 15 sites, including one in Cornwall, UK.

Duncan began the program “with a keen interest in data and outcomes, more than most of my colleagues in mental health services,” according to Bolstad. So it’s no surprise that the organization has been an early adopter of The Performance Imperative, the Performance Imperative Organizational Self-Assessment (PIOSA), and other learning-and-improvement materials developed by the Leap Ambassadors Community.

As Duncan was helping to refine the Friends of the Children model as an engaged founder, he was simultaneously learning about what it takes to be an effective philanthropist.

  • First and foremost, Duncan learned the preeminent importance of talent—that is, “getting the right people on the bus,” in the words of management guru Jim Collins.
  • Second, he learned how important it is to encourage and support grantees to commission rigorous, third-party evaluations
  • Third, he learned the importance of getting out into the field to experience the work he was funding.
  • Fourth, he learned the importance of expanding his investments beyond those for Friends of the Children and other direct-service organizations.
  • Fifth, he learned a great deal about collaborating with other donors who have similar philanthropic passions.

Today, Duncan spends the majority of his work time recruiting new donors. For many grantmakers, taking on the additional role of grant-seeker is a painful chore. For Duncan, it’s energizing.

I thrive in these situations…. My whole business was based on cold calls, so I’m very comfortable getting a lot of ‘nos’ in search of that one ‘yes.’

Read the full profile about philanthropist Duncan Campbell at the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community.