Grassroots Philanthropy

Posted on May 30, 2008. Filed under: Book | Tags: , , , |

I just got finished reading Grassroots Philanthropy. I have been meaning to read it for awhile; thought it would a good look at entrepreneurs in the foundation world. I will have to say it was a good first look!

It was refreshing to hear someone from a foundation talk about real community change, while taking risks on the areas of the community that need it the most. From what I have heard about most foundations, they are stuck a lot like many nonprofits are. There have to be changes made in both nonprofits that do the service and those that fund it, and Bill Somerville provides his readers with some great ideas for how to make those changes in the foundation field.

Somerville doesn’t hold back when describing his experiences in the foundation field. He has had some unique ones as a foundation director and shares them, along with his very strong ideals about how foundations should be run.

Somerville gives five flaws of lackluster philanthropy. Most of which are not very surprising. And provides his readers, he states as all foundation employees, with fixes to each of them.

His five fixes include:

  1. Locate outstanding people doing great work. Somerville says get out of the office, don’t wait for the good grants to come to you. He believes many foundations are missing out on great opportunities.
  2. Move quickly (and shred paper) – he suggests getting rid of most of the application process and setting up systems to respond more quickly to all applicants.
  3. Embrace risk – simply, don’t be afraid to fail.
  4. Focus on ideas instead of problems – look for solutions.
  5. Take initiative – don’t wait for organizations to create the solutions or the programs the community needs, create these opportunities yourself.

These flaws and fixes are just a small glimpse of what foundation professionals can get from Somerville’s book. It’s also a very insightful read for nonprofit professionals looking to get a little insight on innovative practices in foundations. His book is a good reminder of the struggle foundations have for staying new and fresh, for providing real solutions for our countries problems.

I recommend this book as a quick summer read, with great information on how to keep your organization or foundation entrepreneurial and relevant to your community’s needs.


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