Archive for the ‘Governance’ Category

Blessed are the family foundations graced with harmonious board interaction, for they may be focused on their grantmaking. Running through case studies in preparation for our session at this month’s Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference in San Jose, I am struck by the power of a grantmaking program rooted in community ties, family values, [...]

In an earlier post, Susanne Norgard, executive director of The Community Foundation of Mendocino County (where I serve as board president), mentioned that no board member “walks into a community foundation fully understanding what we do and the impact we can make.” She’s right: Learning about the community foundation takes time. But once board members [...]

June 29, 2012 marked the third anniversary of the sentencing of Bernard Madoff, mastermind of the largest ever Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Hundreds of investors lost more than $13 billion to Madoff, including many foundations, some of which had to shut down as a result of their investments.
A few [...]

I recently signed a check for our 2012 Council on Foundations dues. Since I’m the chair of the Council that is probably not surprising. But that’s not my day job. My paycheck comes from being the CEO of Berks County Community Foundation. I was the first employee hired by the foundation, and, like any foundation [...]

If you haven’t already, you should start thinking about how transparent you want your organization to be. The Philanthropy Roundtable began looking at this topic and is about to publish a short book, by John Tyler of the Kauffman Foundation, about all of the intricacies involved. So why are we talking about it and what [...]

During the second panel I attended, I really liked the New Field Foundation’s approach to grantmaking and their utilization of local advisers. It is very sensitive to every aspect of their work and the impact it has on all stakeholders. Bravo.
Interestingly, one of the other grantmakers on the panel relied on volunteer local advisers and [...]

What does Jeremy Lin have to do with the future of philanthropy?

When LINsanity comes to philanthropy from The Nathan Cummings Foundation on Vimeo.

I got some insight into that question recently when I joined Ruth Cummings and Jaimie Mayer Phinney, both trustees of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, at the Council on Foundation’s Family Philanthropy Conference. Ruth [...]

Most family foundations tend to conduct their grantmaking by continuing the discussion until everyone either agrees or at least agrees to commit to a decision. This approach can be time consuming, but rewarding.  What happens, though, when you can’t all agree? What do you do when one director is passionately in support of and another [...]

At ING, we have developed a strong corporate responsibility (CR) program that is enhanced through engagement in all levels of our company.  What have we learned? Buy-in and communications are important on a variety of levels. Tying CR directly to the CEO is critical. A CR program with strong support from the CEO and board [...]

We’re often asked why so many of our educational and microfinance programs invest more heavily in women than men . . .
. . . after all, we love the exuberant energy of boys and the gentle strength of men. In our family of 30 members across 3 generations, we do have a few more [...]

Two years ago the Community Foundations National Standards Board (CFNSB) launched a new website dedicated to providing community foundations with top-notch technical assistance—the “how” of National Standards—to better prepare them to meet the requirements of compliance with the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. We recently launch the new and improved CFStandards website to better serve our [...]

While the panel at the breakfast plenary was terrific to a person, our own Emmett Carson told us the truth about community foundations’ operating model, which we’ve all been thinking about for some time.  It’s not like this hasn’t been a topic of discussion in the past. I think as many as 10 years ago, [...]

I am a morning person.  This may be a result of having three small children who are age 5 and younger, but I find myself most productive and inquisitive at that time of day.  I approach morning plenary sessions bright-eyed, cheery, and ready to learn.  This morning’s session didn’t disappoint.  The knock-out panel comprised Emmett [...]

A few colleagues will likely blog about the breakfast plenary session, “Keep Your Friends Close and Your Competitors Closer,” facilitated by John Kobara, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the California Community Foundation. I’m writing from the perspective of chair of the committee that preceded the Community Foundation Leadership Team, known as the [...]

This weekend’s CEO Retreat was organized by Randy Royster from the Albuquerque Community Foundation (ACF) and Meredith Hart Jones from the Maine Community Foundation. They are definitely two great leaders!
The two-day session was led by Ann Rhoades, a former board member of ACF, a friend of Randy’s, and author of Built on Values. If you [...]

As a long-time conference attendee, I learned ages ago that the CEO Retreat and the Advanced Legal Seminar are reasons—all by themselves—to attend the fall conference. Once again, I was not disappointed.
During the CEO Retreat, Ann Rhoades, president of People Ink, taught us about using a values culture in leadership, hiring, accountability, and evaluation that [...]

Over the past month, I have reflected on the recent webinar, “Leadership and Professional Competencies for the Savvy CEO of the 21st Century.” I’ve also been reading Manning Marable’s excellent biography of Malcolm X, and thinking about the themes that Karen McNeil Miller, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, and I touched on [...]

Part 2: What We Did            Part 1: The Initiative
So what principles and practices did we implement? We started with realistic expectations regarding attrition. According to the “rule of halves,” at every choice point along the way a group of participants will drop in half. Thus, to achieve our participation goals, we targeted a much larger [...]

Part 1: The Initiative
Nonprofits that focus on community organizing know a thing or two about driving participation at events. So when our team led a capacity-building initiative directed at these organizations, we decided to borrow from their playbook. We learned that applying principles such as the “rule of halves” and cultivating personal connections takes time [...]

Trust. It’s perhaps the greatest attribute to have in the world of philanthropy. In the community foundation world specifically, where we at all times are both fundraiser and grantmaker, the trust of donors and charities alike is our greatest asset.
During this remarkable time of financial insecurity in our country and abroad, our field needs to [...]

At Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), we have always emphasized the board’s role in helping high-performing organizations scale. We assess the strength of the board and its leadership when we are considering investing in a nonprofit. We evaluate the working relationship between executive leadership and board leadership and assess whether organizational aspirations are aligned. We have [...]

High-impact. Growth capital. Impact investing. Scaling markets. Sounds like a segment from the Nightly Business Report, doesn’t it? Not quite. I don’t often participate in a learning experience that makes me feel as if I’ve sat through a semester of business school. But that’s how I felt at the recent Social Impact Exchange Conference on [...]

Two recent Council on Foundations events in Battle Creek, Mich. (Regional Learning Forum and Public Policy for Community Foundations Course), produced rich discussions regarding the capacities and roles of community foundations. A Lew Feldstein communication (2009) suggests that, similar to earthworms, “the Foundation’s job is to build the soil, to enrich the ground in which [...]

The debate about whether or not charities should legally be able to compensate those who serve on their boards is an important, if not new, discussion. The most recent iteration of this conversation comes courtesy of a proposal to ban director compensation by public charities in Massachusetts. The legislation is being championed by Martha Coakley, [...]

With recent scandals like the one sparked by Bernie Madoff fresh in our collective consciousness, many foundation board members-especially those who serve on investment committees-do not want to touch hedge funds with a 10-foot pole. You can’t really blame them as they take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously…and thank goodness they do! If they had attended [...]

How can those charged with overseeing the investments of a foundation navigate the challenging investment climate, ensure they are meeting their fiduciary duty, and make investing relevant to the culture and mission of their organization? These essential questions were examined at the Council on Foundations’ recent two-day seminar on investing for foundation professionals and trustees.
Three [...]

In any year, a foundation will spend about 5 percent of its available capital on program grants and operations while 95 percent will be reinvested for the future. The stability and continuity of a foundation’s philanthropic activities depend on successful investment management, but investments do more than just provide cash for grantmaking. They communicate a [...]

Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else!” Fortunately, CF Insights offers tremendous benchmarking tools to help community foundations develop individualized peer groups and collectively analyze trends across our field—and figure out our destination in the process.

At the Annual Meeting of Members the Council membership duly elected new and returning board members for the Class of 2014. I readily admit it: I’m a governance geek. I love reading about such topics as board size and composition, committee structures, board versus management roles, and board development.
It’s actually also what I do at [...]

More than 75 people met Sunday during the Council’s annual conference to discuss the intersection of strategy and evaluation. When asked, the majority stated that they engage in evaluation and strategic learning through various methods, including grantee-level interim/final reports and initiative-level evaluations. The group also stated that they use evaluation findings to inform their strategies. [...]

[Editor’s Note: The Council hosted a “Good Governance for CEOs and Trustees” training workshop on December 10–11. If you are looking to develop an engaged board, then read this post by Susan Meier. Meier, a governance consultant and workshop faculty member, shares some principles you should keep in mind.]
During the governance workshop, I was struck [...]

[Editor’s Note: The Council hosted a “Good Governance for CEOs and Trustees” training workshop on December 10–11. If you are looking to develop an “exceptional” board, then read this post by David Styers. Styers, a governance consultant and workshop faculty member, shares some principles you should keep in mind.]
Working toward the goal of engaging board [...]

[Editor’s Note: On October 22, the Council hosted a “Leadership Conversation on Diversity and Inclusion in Philanthropy.” The convening brought together more than 50 foundation and nonprofit leaders, trustees, and search firm executives to discuss a newly released report—Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership. The event also included a panel discussion and participant Q &A. In [...]

Welcome to RE: Philanthropy! In this blog, guest and Council bloggers share ideas and insights on the most pressing issues in philanthropy. If you want to contribute, please contact

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Council on Foundations.


Albert Ruesga
Ellen Carter
Jeff Pryor
Michael Smith
Torrey Van Antwerp DeKeyser
Rick Martinez
George Stevens
David Styers
Sherry Ristau
Trista Harris
Dan Siegel and Jenny Yancey
Emmett Carson
Jeffrey Cufaude
Rene Cabral-Daniels
David Biemesderfer
Paul Penley
Jim Mayfield
Tony Macklin
Carol Goss
Ed Miller
Elizabeth Carrott Minnigh
Darren Sandow
Claudia Juech
Ian Dutton
Laura Tomasko
Amanda St. Pierre
Nancy Berglass
Kari Dunn Saratovsky
Sam Stern
Gladys Washington
Anthony Tansimore
Daniela Fainberg
John Porter
Sara Watson
Rachael Gibson
Nick Deychakiwsky
Amanda Hsiung
Debbie Starke
Laila Mehta
Aaron Dorfman
Joop Rubens
India Pierce Lee
Chris Pinney
Debra Rubino
Chauncy Lennon
Van Evans
Rebecca Graves
Nicole Taylor
Rick Cohen