PHILANTHROSAURUS FALL 2017

It's time for another round of philanthrosaurus - a chance to translate trending or cliche phrases and concepts in philanthropy.

By Soon-Young Oh

Accountability Framework:

Without clear accountability, organizations lack the commitment necessary to adapt processes, re-align strategies and reassign resources to meet expectations. The idea of an accountability framework is that you’ll create clear ways to set out expectations, gain and accept feedback, take responsibility and make ongoing improvements.

The pitfall of this term is that so much energy can be put into describing the framework, establishing what it means and how it looks that the actually accountability piece gets lost. Sometimes keeping it simple and asking ‘What do we want to have happen,’ ‘how will we know if it happened,’ and ‘what will we do with the results’ is enough without throwing a lot of sector-preferred language into the conversation.

Alignment:

Think of this as a visit to the chiropractor, only the spine is making sure that money, mission and competencies are all working together. This is often used for donors to consider whether their personal values are in agreement with where they are giving. At a foundation level, one must ask: Can we fund programs and operate great programs and keep it all within the stated goals of the organizations? AKA “mission creep.” Nonprofits may ask themselves if they have clear goals, the ability to assign resources, and best of all – what it takes to deliver the actual programs, OR do they have a solid mission, demonstrated abilities to do the work, but the resources aren’t available the way they need them to be.

Capacity-building:

The process by which individuals and organizations obtain, improve, and retain the skills and knowledge needed to do their jobs competently. This  goes hand-in-hand with an organization’s growth, which often includes hiring more staff, better defining current roles on staff, or changing the physical surroundings for an organization as it becomes more effective in its work. For many nonprofits this can mean seeking more funding to get their work done. Generally, it’s a positive term but has been known to be met with groans from time to time as it can also be seen as disruptive for employees working to get projects completed while upper management has their focus shifted toward something else, which may or may not be in agreement throughout an organization.

Donor-centric:

Paying attention to how your donors behave and making smart decisions based on those observations. (Often actually means ego-centric, deciding what people want based on what you like and don’t like. It’s often used as an excuse for a strategy that wasn’t terribly successful.) Another way to use this term is to think about your donors and what they can do for a specific issue in the community beyond just a financial transaction. How else can they be at the heart of an issue and contribute their time and talents?