Philanthropists move too slowly. While lives and communities hang in the balance, funders drag their feet. Instead of finding the fastest route from A to B, they clutter their path with needless obstacles.

Here are a few examples of funders moving at the speed of sloths that I’ve experienced while advising foundation CEOs. Do any feel familiar?

  • A private foundation collects endless data to learn about a social problem and then is so overwhelmed by the data they don’t know what to do with the information.
  • A family office embarks on a year-long strategic planning process that convenes family members a dozen times before their philanthropic strategy is finalized.
  • A community foundation can’t make funding decisions until after the grants committee meets in person, and that only happens twice a year.

Why the sluggishness? Philanthropists make three key mistakes: They toss the junk in their way, they make the simple complex, and they become bloated with bureaucracy.

1. Clogging the System with Unnecessary Junk
Funders set their goals, and then they create a bunch of junk that gets in their way. They use this junk as an excuse for moving so slowly. When I speak with foundation CEOs, I hear about this junk all the time.

2. Complexifying the Simple Instead of Simplifying the Complex
Instead of determining the easiest and most streamlined solution, philanthropists often create a convoluted one.

If you want to implement your philanthropic strategy, it’s as simple as identifying your top implementation priorities, assigning people to be accountable to them, asking them to come up with a list of the 5–10 things they need to do next, and then holding their feet to the fire by asking for progress updates every few weeks. It’s really that easy.

3. Developing Bureaucratic Bloat
Bureaucracy allows unnecessary procedures and systems to rule the roost. These procedures might have made sense when you first started, but they no longer serve you. Or they never made sense, and you just began doing them because that’s what another foundation did.

Read the full article about philanthropic strategy by Kris Putnam-Walkerly at Kris Putnam-Walkerly.