My early career as a nonprofit development professional included some fairly unforgettable moments. One such moment included downloading the interim report for a particularly generous funder of my nonprofit organization. The printer jumped to life, spitting out page after page – in all, the report contained 8 pages, 12 point font, of questions.
This year marks the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s tenth year as an active grantmaker. During these last 10 years, we have discovered that when it comes to ramping up a new foundation or grantmaking organization, there is no single “how-to guide” or step-by-step plan to follow, despite the philanthropic community being a dynamic and complex one. There’s no clear outlet where veterans of philanthropy can systematically impart their knowledge — as well as cautions about their missteps — to the next generation.
Race is a fictive idea that holds real-life consequences. As a black man, who has a six-foot-and-three-inch-tall presence, I am intimately familiar with the tangibility of the myth. Although many anthropologist and geneticists have disproved any biological basis to race, the idea still manifests as the seat next to me that remains empty even though the train is crowded.
Here is a well-kept secret: the most innovative, transformative foundations have the most robust infrastructure. In other words, the foundations that are the bravest, the most visionary, and become trailblazers in the philanthropic sector, take great care to design the most thorough organizational infrastructures.