Philanthropy is a journey that can be immensely rewarding but also very challenging. There is no one way to begin your journey into philanthropy, but there are surely mistakes to avoid so the process can be smoother for you. Let’s look at different things to stay away from when you decide to start experimenting with philanthropy.
Firstly, you want to avoid making simple things very complex. Always think about the simplest way to achieve your objectives and avoid creating chaotic situations for yourself. Common sense will guide you through most of your decisions, and your staff and funders will appreciate a clear, concise, simple plan. Next, avoid managing when you should be governing. As you work with your team to accomplish goals, do not micromanage your staff when you should be leading them towards an achievable goal. You are there to create and implement your vision, not to overanalyze every detail of the process. Also, try not to obsess over money. Gaining funding and capital is important, but it will cloud your focus on other critical aspects of your foundation if you let the thought of money control all your decision-making.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make during this journey is failing to learn. You have to be willing to fail in certain areas and grow from them. If you cannot constantly adapt after going through obstacles, your foundation will not succeed the way you want it to. Also, be careful of misunderstanding the power dynamic between your foundation and the community it serves. You want to create an environment where your grantees feel heard and comfortable to discuss opinions and suggestions with you and your board members. Along with this, philanthropy is about helping others, so do not let success and money go to your head. Avoid thinking of the foundation’s funds as your personal money, and always remember why you were passionate about your project in the first place.
Do not forget to value community input. The opinions the community has of your foundation can be the difference between it thriving or burning out. Conduct constant check-ins with the community to ensure that you are doing everything you can to assess their wants and needs. Lastly, hold everyone on your team accountable. Trying to keep everything polite and non-confrontational can be damaging to your foundation. There should be policies in place to address issues cordially and consequences for misconduct and unproductivity.