A few weeks ago I called up a program officer of a foundation to discuss my organization’s amazing idea to bring more immigrant and refugee leaders into the nonprofit field. “That’s a great idea,” said the program officer, “but what’s your sustainability plan? We don’t tend to support projects unless we know they will be financially independent in the future.”
Why won’t foundations pay more, or in some cases, pay anything, for the infrastructure which exists to help and serve them? And what can be done to change that?
Some ideas always seem to keep coming back, like the proverbial bad penny. Ideas in philanthropy and charity are no exception.
Journalists who write about the world of philanthropy are frequently lured in by the newsworthy multi-million-dollar grants that make the biggest waves, while nonprofit executives and development staff tend to focus a lot of attention on chasing five-figure and low six-figure grants.
It’s a strange job…giving away money. Sure, it sounds simple. People come to funders for support, we decide if the idea fits with our foundation’s mission, we vet it, perhaps we write a recommendation for our board, and our trustees then make a determination. Pretty straightforward. Pretty clear. Pretty formulaic — at least on the surface.
Calls for greater transparency from social institutions
are gaining momentum in American
culture, especially given concerns about the
potential risks to society from misconduct
hidden from public view.
From 30 April 2018, we will be suspending the receipt of unsolicited proposals for an initial test period of six months. We will be replacing them with an in-depth focus on one country, desk-based research and visits to meet potential grantees.
Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke has donated the fees he received for chairing the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings to well performing law students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
Let me begin by stating the obvious. I love being a foundation program officer. I’ve worked for private foundations for almost 13 years, and it has been a blast. Not only has it given me the privilege to support some of the best, brightest, and committed people in the social change space, but it has taught me humility, patience, and the ability to see the bigger picture.