January 22, 2018

Linda Wood, senior director, Haas Leadership Initiatives

Just the other day, I sat down with a group of foundation leaders visiting from Australia. They said they want to do more to support the people working in the nonprofit sector in their country, and they were looking for examples and inspiration from colleagues in the United States.

These Australian funders are not alone in their desire to invest in nonprofit leadership and talent. At the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, we regularly get calls and emails from colleagues with questions about how best to support grantees to cultivate talent and leadership of their board and staff teams.

People want to hear real stories about successful funder investments. They want to learn more about how to further the values of diversity, equity and inclusion in the sector, how to listen carefully to the needs of grantees, and how to manage the power dynamic inherent in the work of investing in nonprofit leadership. Finally, they want help with messaging and case-making so they can build support for these investments across their boards and staffs.

What we’ve realized in responding to these inquiries is that few roadmaps and resources exist when it comes to investing in talent and leadership. And I think the lack of information and guidance on the “how” of this work is part of what keeps philanthropy from making it the priority it needs to be. Indeed, over the last 20 years, just 1 percent of foundation dollars went to nonprofit leadership development.

I am confident philanthropy can do better on this crucial topic — we have to.

Enter the Fund the People Toolkit. This rich new resource is full of information that will help funders, nonprofits and others maximize their investments in talent and leadership. For example, anyone in philanthropy who is trying to convince their board or colleagues of the value of “funding the people” would be well-served to read the toolkit section on the top reasons to invest in nonprofit talent. A quick excerpt:

Investing in talent is widely believed to optimize the effectiveness of organizations, including individual leaders, ideas, dollars, and culture.

This belief is ingrained deeply in our work at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. Ever since we began investing intentionally in nonprofit leadership in 2005, we have seen again and again how this kind of support can make a big difference for people, organizations and movements. That’s why we were so pleased to join other funders in sharing our experiences more widely through the Fund the People Toolkit. It’s also why we are so excited this new resource is now available to advance discussion and practice when it comes to investing in talent. In today’s volatile and changing environment, people and teams across the nonprofit sector are both stressed and stretched. Given the massive political shifts we’ve seen, leaders and their organizations are struggling to manage an onslaught of new challenges, along with new opportunities for action and engagement. If ever there were a moment for philanthropy to increase investments in nonprofit leadership and talent, it is now. Fund the People knows this, and they are providing both the inspiration and the ideas that foundations need to move from interest to action.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published October 30, 2017, on the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund website (https://www.haasjr.org/perspective/investing-in-nonprofit-talent).

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}