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January Must-Reads

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The start of the new year brought reflections—one from a former program officer on questions he wishes he’d asked, and one from the codirectors of Management Assistance Group on how the organization is creating a culture of shared leadership. We also were drawn to an article outlining a new model for capacity building, a comparison of the nonprofit sector to the gig economy, and 13 leaders’ perspectives on how philanthropy can further Martin Luther King Jr.’s economic justice goals.

What caught your attention this month?

GRANTMAKING STRATEGY | Chronicle of Philanthropy | 5-minute read

Antony Bugg-Levine, a former Rockefeller Foundation program officer, reflects on seven questions he wishes he had asked of himself and his foundation colleagues, including Why do we award large grants to large organizations but only small grants to small ones? and Why do foundations ask grantees to provide formal written reports, and in a format unique to each of us? Bugg-Levine shares openly about requests he made as a program officer that make him cringe today and what he would do differently in his former role.

LEADERSHIP | Management Assistance Group | 6-minute read

Three years after Elissa Sloan Perry and Susan Misra took on the roles of codirectors at Management Assistance Group, they reflect on what they are learning and the full team’s efforts to co-create a shared leadership culture across the organization. The experiment has resulted in greater shared leadership, a deeper alignment with the organization’s values and the five elements needed to advance justice, and a slower burnout rate. Elissa and Susan write about what shared leadership looks like for Management Assistance Group and eight principles that guide their roles as codirectors.

CAPACITY BUILDING | Nonprofit Quarterly | 5-minute read

Many capacity building models are outdated and set nonprofits up to fail, the author argues. These models are built on false assumptions about who has expertise, funnel knowledge and learning in one direction, and fail to plan for a transition after capacity is built. Organizations can create a new, more powerful partnership model in which all organizations are seen as equal contributors, local leadership is valued, and partners plan for the long term.

GRANTMAKING STRATEGY | National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy | 5-minute read

While many foundations agree that general operating support is critical, only 20% of domestic funding among the largest 1,000 U.S. foundations goes toward general support, creating philanthropy’s version of the gig economy, according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. A new report, “Capturing General Operating Support Effectiveness” by TCC Group’s Jared Raynor and Deepti Sood, provides an evaluation framework for funders to understand the impact of their general support grants. Yet a framework isn’t enough, argues the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, if funders don’t trust grantees and if funding decisions are based on biased views of what strong nonprofits look like.

EQUITY | Chronicle of Philanthropy | 14-minute read

Martin Luther King Jr. argued for a “radical redistribution of economic and political power.” How can philanthropy move us closer to that vision? Leaders from Meyer Memorial Trust, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Ford FoundationDemos, and others share thoughts on linking economic justice to racial justice, addressing housing disparities and student debt, holding corporations and government accountable, and more.


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