How Do You Deal with Suggestions/Recommendations that Don’t Fit Well with Your Funding Priorities?

Mary Kaplan, vice president of program at the Endowment for Health in Concord, New Hampshire: We listen to those. Sometimes people have trouble articulating something bigger than what’s going on with them. We sit there trying not to say anything until they’ve finished talking. Then we kindly close the conversation and say, “Why don’t we sit down and talk more about that afterwards?” Sometimes there will be a hospital CEO who has come to listen, and people will be raking him over the coals. But there’s nothing said that isn’t an opportunity to learn.

Anne Vally, special initiatives officer at The James Irvine Foundation: Our funding priorities don’t always neatly align with how the work unfolds on the ground. So the question for us is, How do we make sure that we’re accountable to the strategies our board has endorsed, but at the same time recognize that the world doesn’t always come in tidy packages? We’re continuing to try to think of different ways to do that. For example, we might exercise expenditure responsibility in order to work with an organization that doesn’t have 501(c)(3) status or we might work with a fiscally sponsored organization. In Riverside and San Bernadino counties, we found interesting work that’s well aligned with our program strategies and has great community leadership, but, for whatever reason, the community doesn’t want to create an organization. It’s a challenge to say, “Okay, how can we work with them? How can we ensure that the dollars are being used smartly and for charitable purposes, but yet fund the work where it’s happening?”

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This takeaway was derived from Scanning the Landscape 2.0.

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