Politics and Philanthropy
August 16th, 2007Last night I enjoyed my condo association picnic that gave all the neighbors a chance to become reacquainted which reinforces a good sense of community. As happens so often, I was once again mistaken for Jeanne Englehart*, the GR Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO, who is also a neighbor and friend. However, it is always interesting to see how people view Grand Rapids and West Michigan from a different perspective that is unencumbered by the "politics" of running a major foundation.
The questions "so how is your job going" and "what is new", left me speechless last evening. A surprise to those who know me that is for sure. The reason my voice was temporarily silenced is due to the fact that no one can really understand how it feels to lead a foundation that reaches across every aspect of community life just like I may not always understand what another occupation or position may really be like.
The past few weeks have been particularly grueling for a variety of reasons. It is a huge honor to be in the position I am in make no mistake about it. However, it comes with a price. Organizations, community leaders and others feel that they deserve a crack at our resources. And they do! If turned down, this can result in some misunderstandings, hurt feelings and in some cases, anger.
This Foundation has a process that involves a well-researched and frankly strong set of strategic goals that guide our funding decisions. Sometimes, though, we make decisions with such integrity and objectivity that good opportunities may be missed. But not often. The politics come in when the expectation is that funding should follow every good idea and good program in the minds of those applying to the Foundation.
In other worlds, there is due diligence when considering a request for funding and what I don't understand is why that should be absent in the world of philanthropy. There is due diligence that one must exercise when buying a business, when one examines real estate, and when one is doing product comparisons when considering a major purchase. We cannot make decisions based on "who will be mad if we don't provide funding". That is not a good way to run a business - a city - a county - or a community foundation. And that does not demonstrate the type of leadership this community deserves!
But it does come with a price as I said before. So to my neighbors I say, things are going well and so much is new that it would take hours to tell you. But one thing is certain - there is so much promise in our community as we move forward to attract new businesses to this beautiful part of the state and resolve major issues and just enjoy one another!
*P.S. - Jeanne and I have been mistaken for one another for the past few years - same age, same hair color thanks to the stylist we both go to, etc. I have told Jeanne not to worry about upgrading her plane seat to first class either through an "elite status" upgrade or using airline miles because any local GR people passing through the plane to their seats will just think it's me! She can travel worry-free!