An Approach to Funding That Might Actually Work

As you may know, I’m a bit of a skeptic about the efficacy of traditional endowments. In an earlier blog post, “THIS is the Rainy Day,” I urged nonprofits with endowments to increase their spending rate in tough times and down markets, rather than following the common wisdom and lowering their annual draw (and fiscally starving themselves in the process). My point was: There are needs now. Let’s fix them. Let’s spend a bit more from the endowments today to prevent chronic problems from continuing tomorrow. And then we can then go out and raise new funds to build up our capital. Continue reading

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A Trail Goes Cold

So these two guys walk into a bar.

Actually, I was one of them. It was the end of a conference in Minneapolis last fall, and I had to kill time (and find food) while I was waiting for a colleague to finish a meeting. So I grabbed lunch at a bar and struck up a conversation with the guy next to me.

He and I really hit it off. We talked movies, politics, and books. Lunch passed quickly. At the end we shared what we did for work. When he said he was a criminal lawyer, he saw me do a bit of a double-take. (He seemed used to that reaction.) So he said, in an obviously practiced response: “Remember: criminal lawyers are civil. Civil lawyers are criminal.”

A good line, with all due apologies to you civil lawyers out there.

So here’s my parallel reminder when thinking about charitable foundations: Private foundations are public. Public foundations are private. Continue reading

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What’s in a Name?

First, a story about my mother. It’s the kind of story I can tell, but you can’t, because she’s my mother, not yours.

My mom, who recently turned 87, is a very traditional woman of her generation. And she never quite understood that, though my wife Pat decided to take my last name when we got married in 1983, she certainly did not subsume her identity to me. So for years every time my mom sent a birthday card to Pat, she addressed it to “Mrs. Alan Cantor.” It drove both Pat and me nuts: Pat took my last name, sure, but not my first!

Then the time came when Pat earned her doctoral degree, and to mark the accomplishment my mother sent her a card. Continue reading

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Fish Stories

I was visiting with the staff of a small human services agency the other day. I asked them how they liked their board of directors, and they were generally positive, until it came to talking about the board’s attitude about development.  At that point, their calm professionalism fell away, replaced within seconds by apoplexy. Continue reading

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Thoughts on the Nonprofit World