Funders: Directing at the Intersection

To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.                                   – Aristotle

Funders have to navigate and mediate at the intersection of three worlds to implement effective philanthropy. By using the word funders, I included institutional funders such as foundation leaders, corporate social responsibility managers, or government grantors, and I include individual and family donors as well.

These three worlds are:

  1. Your personal life: your values, your personal priorities, your specific cultural context, the pressures and challenges you face outside of work
  2. Your professional roles: the values and the cultural context of your organization, those priorities, the pressures and challenges you face in your work life
  3. The communities that your organization seeks to benefit: the values, cultural context, priorities, pressures and challenges of those communities

These world may differ in racial, ethnic, and political contexts. They are certainly different economic contexts. Communication, decision making, and leadership patterns may be vastly different in each of these realms. In fact, it would be very surprising if they were similar.

Flickr user, Indi Samarajiva

Flickr user, Indi Samarajiva

So there you are at the intersection of these different worlds. You are an interpreter, a representative, a mediator, an advocate. The degree to which you can fulfill your role with awareness, intelligence, and clear vision will help you be successful and make the most impact with your work. And minding the intersection can be exhausting. Don’t get burned out.

What can help with this challenge?

  • Work to be secure in your own identity, grow your multicultural understanding and willingness to change.
  • Get to know some of the beneficiaries of your work – personally. Grow you understanding of their communities.
  • Be willing to take personal and professional risks – particularly for what you believe in.
  • Find others with whom you can authentically and deeply engage.
  • Reflect on your development and professional challenges with a thinking partner who can help you create and work toward your goals, while ensuring your own nurturance and resilience.

As a coach, naturally I would recommend a good professional coach or coaching group. To find one, see if your professional membership organization offers coaching groups, check out the International Coaching Federation, or contact me and I will see how I can help you connect.

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