Last week, I wrote a post entitled, “Some Thoughts on Philanthropy.” In it, I talked about some of the latest things I’d seen come across the transom regarding funders, fundraising, and our work.

No sooner did I hit “publish” that two more pieces crossed the wire, both of them referencing the work of the Ford Foundation — which I consider a leader in impact-based philanthropy in the work that we do.

I first came across Darren Walker and the Ford Foundation when I read this excellent piece on the Detroit Institute of Arts and the City of Detroit’s bankruptcy case. Walker played a key role in saving the art for the citizens of the Motor City — and all of us. (Read it for a fascinating look at how American philanthropy came together.)

I was later able to secure him to speak at the 2017 AASLH conference in Austin, Texas where he and Dina Bailey (who I interviewed here) had a conversation about diversity and inclusion in history organizations, among other things (audio here). Shortly thereafter, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its $25 million African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, for which the Ford Foundation is a donor. And, last week I wrote some thoughts including some on Walker’s “A Vision for Philanthropy in the New Year” message.

And then these two pieces appeared.

First, is this from Nonprofit Quarterly, “Multiyear and Unrestricted: The Grants of Nonprofit Dreams Come to Life.”

The lede says it best,

“This preface introduces a cluster of articles in the winter 2018 edition of the Nonprofit Quarterly that’s aimed explicitly at encouraging grantmaking foundations to review their own practices, specifically the common practices of 1) limiting most grants to one-year periods, and 2) making grants that are restricted in terms of their use. These outdated habits encourage a host of unproductive dynamics within and between nonprofits and the foundations that fund them.”

The piece mentions two initiatives by funders: the Ford Foundation’s Building Institutions and Networks program, and efforts by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

Both engage in what the the Whitman Institute calls Trust-Based Philanthropy, the key principles of which are:

  • Provide Unrestricted, Multi-Year Funding
  • We Do the Homework
  • Partner in a Spirit of Service
  • Transparent and Responsive Communication
  • Solicit and Act on Feedback
  • Simplify and Streamline Paperwork
  • Support Beyond the Check

The second piece is a bit of museum-specific news in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “$4 Million Grant Will Promote Board Diversity at Museums.”

The article highlighted a $4 million gift from the Ford Foundation (again) and the Andrew W. Mellon and Alice L. Walton Foundations to the American Alliance of Museums “to bolster board diversity in a push to make museums more accessible and inclusive.”

“The grant is designed so that the alliance can work closely with a group of 50 museums to improve diversity and inclusion at their institutions and at the same time develop resources to help all museums — and perhaps others in the nonprofit world — tackle the subject.”

Though the funding seems to focus primarily on museum boards, it seems funds are also going to be used to address more specific issues of diversity and inclusion in museums:

“The alliance will provide intensive training on topics such as how to recognize and curb implicit bias and promote organizational change. It will also aid 10 museums in each of five cities and regions so they can develop inclusion plans…. It will also gather museum leaders to determine the core characteristics of being an inclusive museum and develop a pledge for excellence in diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusiveness, and the alliance will incorporate standards for inclusiveness into its accreditation process.”

I’ve spilled a fair amount of ink on the Ford Foundation and Darren Walker’s work and it’s for good reason. Walker is truly putting his money where his mouth is in not only modernizing the practices of the Ford Foundation but in allowing those of us in the cultural sector to achieve our goals in concert with funders.

What are your thoughts?

A twenty-year veteran of the nonprofit world, Bob Beatty is founder of The Lyndhurst Group, a history, museum, and nonprofit consulting firm providing community-focused engagement strategies for institutional planning, organizational assessments, and interpretive direction.

President of The Lyndhurst Group, a history, museum, and nonprofit firm providing community-focused strategies for planning, assessment, and interpretation.