Why I am Making a Pretty Big Change in My Life

I have some big news to share. First, a little background.

A few weeks after I started at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, my wife looked at me across the dinner table one night.

“What is going on?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You are not complaining about work.”

I thought about it, and she was right. After a lot of tough years in journalism, magazine publishing and on the Web, I had landed at the foundation feeling like I was in heaven. I was offered the challenge of leading a great philanthropy by the hand into the world of the Web. I was surrounded by smart and supportive people and working for an organization that was trying its best to make a difference. I was nervous and excited at the same time, but that is exactly how I wanted to feel. What could I possibly find to complain about?

Nearly nine years later, I’m still not complaining (for the most part), but the world has changed and the time has come to move on. I’ve decided to head out on my own to make my way as a consultant. I know what you are thinking. You think I’m nuttier than my Grandpa Norman who sunk his fortune into a business to provide tiny iron shoes for sea horses. (It was only later that he discovered they don’t have any feet.) Maybe you’re right. Or maybe you aren’t. Time will tell.

I was planning to write a long list of reasons why I am taking this step, but scrapped it because they all boil down to one: This feels right. I’m ready for new challenges. I’m ready to help other organizations get where they want to go. I’m nervous and excited at the same time again, and that feels good.

There is something else, too. You may have noticed a theme in my blog posts (and other writings) lately. Philanthropy is changing, and foundations can either get on board the shiny new train or keep plodding along on the same slow local. I strongly believe that it is time for foundations to move toward more transparency. It is time to be more accountable. It is time to be more open about our failings. It is time to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Most of all, it is time to tear down the walls that separate foundations from the rest of the world. If we truly care about having an impact on the issues we are so passionate about than we will let the sun shine on our internal processes so that we can make them more effective. Welcoming input from a broader constituency earlier and more often than we ever have before can only make us stronger. I’ve had the honor of helping RWJF move toward that world, and I am hoping to have the chance to help other organizations that have the same goal.

I’ve been working on the Web since 1995. Over the years, I have helped launch two major consumer health Web sites, rode the dot com bubble and bust, and brought a major foundation into the world of the Web. I have a passel of hard-earned knowledge about Web and content strategy and spent the last year focused on social media—working on blogs, Twitter feeds, YouTube pages, Facebook pages, community initiatives, user comments and more. I feel like I’ve been through the war and want to share that experience with other organizations through consulting, speaking, workshops and writing – including this blog. Yes, I plan to spend more time on this blog (and my writing in general). Look for some changes as this blog becomes the centerpiece for my new venture.

So, there it is. It feels a little crazy, but – as Grandpa Norman used to say – even sea horses need to stretch their legs sometimes. (It was only later that he learned that they don’t have legs, either.)

Wish me luck, and please let me know if I can be of help to you in any way.

Photo credit: Popofatticus. Attribution.

13 responses to “Why I am Making a Pretty Big Change in My Life”

  1. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Many thanks!

  2. […] two years ago, I shared with you on this blog that I was leaving the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation after nine years to go out on my own, helping […]

  3. A little late, but … good luck!

    Just saw your post. Thanks for such thoughtful blogging.

    Hope to hear about how the consultant gig goes and what you learn!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Karen. Much appreciated. So far, so good for the consulting gig. I’m having a blast speaking, writing and sharing ideas with lots of great folks.


  4. Good to see you following your instincts, Larry. The community will be better off for it. And something tells me you will be, too. You can leave RWJF knowing you made an outstanding contribution to its digital leadership. Welcome to the (consulting) crowd.


  5. Congratulations, Larry! Come on in, the water’s fine.

  6. Wow. Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and expressions of support. I have my moments of doubt – generally when I’m lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling – but mostly I am excited about this move. And I am feeling more and more confident thanks to all of the encouragement.

    1. Finally a word for the next decade. Our industry needs change agents that are less focused on ” agency outcomes” and more focused on the funders that fund us. Is it time for a revolution or evolution? I’m not quite sure however I am convinced that we are squandering enormus talent pools with obligations to ancient, outdated, biased paraidigms regarding non profit organizations, and the philantropist/Foundations/Funders who fund them. I welcome your journey with open eyes. The world is waiting for the new Robin Hood!

  7. Congratulations! Look forward to keeping updated on your new adventure as I’m sure success will find you—as it clearly already has. 😉

  8. Congratulations Larry!

    I can so, so relate. For nearly seven years I worked in programming and then in communications for a large regional foundation. I LOVED my work! For the most part. Gradually that began to change and I moved over to the other side – doing development for several small nonprofit organizations.

    Consulting has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me, So looking forward to watching you evolve even more.

    Good luck!

  9. Congratulations Larry! I feel the same way about the work I do with nonrprofits….in fact I keep saying that philanthropy is changing and nonprofits can change or die. I’m offering a series of free training webinars for nonprofits. I’d love to collaborate with you. Good luck with the consulting! It is certainly an interesting road to travel!


  10. Congratulations, Larry. I know the non-profit arena will benefit greatly from your consulting involvement.

    Looking forward to hearing about — and possibly helping contribute to — your success,

  11. Wowie, wow, Larry this is HUGE news! Congratulations and good luck on your new and grand adventure. I’m sure our paths will continue to cross.


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