Continued learning from the "Stanford experience"!
June 18th, 2007It has been one week since the Stanford experience which as I think about it and process it, is increasingly significant. This past week has been one tough week. It has not been so much because of returning, but there have been some major disappointments and I have not had the time to really review everything from the Executive Program for Philanthropy Leaders. However, one experience that I did not write about previously stands out from my week at Stanford.
I am sure that some nonprofit leaders appreciate this Foundation and I am sure that some have been frustrated with us. One thing is certain, we are as fair as we can be and have a solid and proven process for making grant decisions. Marcia Rapp, VP of Programs, and her team are simply the best in the business - and I mean nationally if not beyond. I am biased I admit but one thing is certain, we do review our practices and processes continually and don't stand on the notion of "we've always done it this way".
One of the sessions at Stanford was the introduction of four exceptional nonprofit leaders who came in to give us a view of what their experiences have been working with foundations. The professionals had great things to say about their experiences with foundations and they had horrific experiences with foundations - major national/international ones and the ones closer to home. A particularly painful account but one that is repeated daily was listening to a story about an 18 month process working with a major unnamed private foundation program officer who encouraged the applying organization to look to a grant for $250,000. After asking for more and more information over the next year and a half, the nonprofit organization was eager to learn the results.
After what I consider to be an extraordinary and frankly dumbfounding amount of time, the Program Officer at that foundation reported back that a $25,000 grant would be made but the organization had to submit more information. I know what I would have done and said "keep your money". And how many nonprofits have felt that here with us I don't know.
What was truly appalling though was the story that in order to receive a grant, one of the presenters said that she was asked to get the program officer entry into an exclusive San Francisco restaurant. Her friends owned the restaurant and the program officer knew that. . . UGH!
Each foundation is different and we operate differently from the Frey Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, and all the other foundations in our community. One size does not definitely fit all.
A strong lesson - - - we are partners with this community and in particular the nonprofit community and I hope that the nonprofits know that!