Is Your Philanthropy on the Path to Awesomeness?

posted on: February 20, 2013

by Yna C. Moore

“We are made to be awesome.”

That’s the bold message of Kid President, a young boy who has made a name for himself on YouTube with a series of cute, funny and inspiring videos “to make grown-ups less boring.”

Although the statement is directed at us as individuals, I couldn’t help but project Kid President’s pep talk to a sector seeking effective strategies, bigger impacts, better results and ultimately the realization of our visions of a better world.

(If you can’t see the video, click here.)

“Boring is easy! Everybody can be boring. But you’re gooder than that. …

‘Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the road less traveled.’ And it hurt, man! Really bad! Rocks! Thorns! And glass!

But what if there are two paths? I’ll be on the one that leads to awesome …

Create something that will make the world awesome.”

– Kid President

How can your philanthropy be awesome?

Being awesome means using effective, high impact strategies to achieve better results and ultimately achieve goals that benefit our world. And although the path to awesomeness is not necessarily the same for every foundation, it can be summarized in three basic characteristics:

  • It is the opposite of mediocrity.
  • It is the pursuit of The Road Less Traveled despite the hardship and risk involved.
  • It is a focus on what it can do for the world, instead of what the world can do for it.

If you’re ready to look at concrete ways to set your foundation on its path to awesomeness, check out these resources:

It’s not enough to set clear goals, utilize evidence-based strategies and solicit feedback. To be truly effective, strategic philanthropy must turn to practices familiar to social justice philanthropy: understanding who will benefit from your foundation’s programs and how, recognizing the need to influence public policy by funding nonprofit advocacy and community organizing, and seeking input from nonprofit grantees and the communities they serve.

This report is worth the read even if you don’t think your foundation’s focus lends itself to the social justice philanthropy approach. It includes examples on how the recommendations apply to education, health, environment and arts philanthropy.

How does a $115 return for every dollar invested sound? No, there are no missing decimal points here! This report describes how 110 organizations across 13 states brought nearly $27 billion in benefits to our communities by empowering rural communities, low-wage works and other marginalized groups through philanthropy-supported nonprofit advocacy and community organizing.

If you want to see specific impacts from these organizations, from economic security to civil and human rights, check out this sortable Impacts Directory.

Contrary to a common myth, nonprofit advocacy and lobbying are strategies that foundations can support. You can learn more about what and how foundations can legally fund these types of effort on Bolder Advocacy.

And check out this comprehensive list of additional resources on funding policy and civic engagement, which includes references from affinity groups, grantmakers and infrastructure groups. It also lists additional readings on coalitions, networks, movement building and more.

If you’re ready to make a commitment to awesomeness, then make today, World Day for Social Justice, the day you sign on to Philanthropy’s Promise. Join more than 140 other grantmakers that have pledged to achieve high impact philanthropy by prioritizing and empowering underserved populations such as the poor, elderly, women and girls and other groups. 

Here’s a video on Philanthropy’s Promise

Is your foundation on the path to awesomeness? 

Yna C. Moore is communications director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).