5 Ways to Mind the Philanthropy Shop Mindfully

CJ Callen is a philanthropy consultant, wine blogger and Liaison for Wisdomprenuers. You can find her complete NNCG member profile here. 

Callen, CJThe subtitle of this might be for a foundation reader, or “how I stopped trying to save the world and started knowing myself.”

Mindfulness is simply knowing what you are doing while you are doing it,

Based on my experience as a foundation staff person, trustee, director of program at a regional association, and philanthropy consultant, I have witnessed time and again foundation in a constant state of planning their next steps. Here are 5 ways that foundations can get off the off the “mindless” tread mill and be fully present – for philanthropy’s sake

  1. Have a “sit with” your prospects or current grantees rather than a site visit. As we all know, site visitors can all too often turn into “dog and pony” show which cut off the possibility of developing authentic relationships with the people who make up an organization. Instead of setting up a site visit, communicate to the organization that you want to spend time with them to get to know them, to listen to their story and see how the foundation might be of service to them. This flips the scrip away from an organization performing for you to try to impress to one in which the goals is simply to develop the basic trust needed for an effective grantor-granteee relationship.
  1. Grow things “slow enough.” I remember sitting at the feet of wise man Parker Palmer and hearing him say this. We can be in such a rush for change that we forget to provide the tender care that will lead to the exact results. We forget that rushing forward can actually hurl us backwards – making our goals more elusive.
  1. Show compassion. This is absolutely essential to being effective and alive in your role. You must show compassion for yourself and that will enable you to show compassion for others and is so doing, entering into non-judgmental interactions with all who come in contact with you.
  1. Express gratitude. This is harder than one might imagine. I cannot recall how many times I heard “thank you” or “I appreciate …” This can start immediately in staff meetings and then radiate out to the community of nonprofits that you serve.
  1. Let your values be your guide in the moment. We all know that philanthropy is values driven and so own it. The beat way to do that is to be in the moment with that which is the beacon for your giving, let it be your guide but your impetus to stop out, pause and reflect – with the goal of stopping you from the cycle of planning those next thousand steps.

All five of these steps have the benefit of ensuring that you remain close to the joy of giving remains in your work. Please don’t forget the joy the comes with giving even with the seemingly intractable problems you seek to solve, the herculean challenges you (and above all, your grantees) face in and the inevitable frustrations that will continue to confound you.

The spirit of a gift grounded in authentic relationships is a powerful one that can help everyone weather the storms that are part and parcel of creating social change while opening new pathways for increased impact. Mindfulness is not a fad but an essential practice for success in the messy and complex social sector, providing you with the personal and interpersonal tools needed to create the meaningful partnerships needed for the long haul that change requires.