Archive for January, 2010

A Social Media Experiment that Somehow Went Right

Just before we launched the first Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Year in Research poll, David Colby came by my office about a hundred times with the same question.

“What if nobody votes?”

Colby (pictured left) is Vice President of Research and Evaluation at RWJF (my employer). He had been producing an annual list of the most influential health policy research articles for a couple of years, when he decided in 2008 that it was time to let a broader audience help choose the list. But clearly he was struggling with a common fear. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why One Foundation Believes Writing Checks is Not Enough

Toward the end of December, I saw the Case Foundation do something I haven’t seen before from another foundation. It was straightforward and helpful. And so simple. Under the heading “Great Nonprofits That Should Make Your Holiday List”, Michael Smith, V.P. Social Innovation (pictured left), wrote a blog post listing 27 of the foundation’s grantees. The post contained a description of each and, most important, a button to donate directly to them. It was a simple gesture to help organizations Case is working with in their end-of-year campaigns for funding, and an acknowledgement that foundations can and should be helping their grantees in more ways than the grant process.  Read the rest of this entry »

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My Helpful Guide to Failing at Philanthropy

There has been some discussion in the foundation world recently about failure (although probably not nearly enough). Particularly, about the question of why foundations don’t talk more openly about our mistakes. 

While there are a few “good” reasons like protecting grantees, we all know the main explanation comes down to embarrassment and ego. I want to add one more possibility to the literature.

Perhaps foundation staff members don’t know how to fail. I don’t mean that we don’t fail. We fail all the time. I mean that we don’t know how to fail with style. Failing to succeed. With that in mind, I put together a handbook on failing at philanthropy for the Philanthropy News Digest. You can read it here.

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Six Lessons Learned from Launching – and Closing – a Community

In my travels over the past few months I have talked to a number of organizations that are experimenting with online communities. I’ve heard tales of success and tales of failure. Mostly, I’ve heard that building an online community is not a task that should be taken lightly. But take heart. Others have traveled this road before. Read the rest of this entry »

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