Grantmakers Who Get It: Investing in Leadership for Philanthropic Impact

In a recent blog post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Ira Hirschfield, President of the  Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund presents the case that foundations need to do more to fund leadership development. In the blog “Investing in Leadership to Accelerate Philanthropic Impact,” Hirschfield points out less than 1 percent of overall foundation giving from 1992 through 2011 went to leadership development.


Leadership Advanced Milwaukee 2014 Fellows. Leadership Advanced is a foundation-funded, cohort-based, peer-centered, professional development program for nonprofit leaders.

Why Funding Talent Matters

Hirschfield states, “foundations ask a great deal of the organizations we support… we hope grantees will deliver transformational results for the people and places they serve. So it’s striking how seldom we back that up with funds to help organizations develop and strengthen the ability of their leaders to meet those high expectations.”

He continues “People are not born with everything it takes to manage and motivate a team, build coalitions and lead change – and are certainly not born knowing how to be good board members….”

The Haas, Jr. Fund views investment in leadership as a core strategy to accelerate their foundation’s impact and a formal evaluation of their Flexible Leadership Awards found the program boosted impact.

Adding protein powder to grantmakers energy shake

One Flexible Leadership Awards grantee shares her experience as “It’s like adding protein powder to your other grants. If you want your other grants to be successful—if you want your grantees to do the best job in meeting their deliverables and moving the ball forward in their movements—you have to invest in leadership development.”

Hirschfield explains, “This is what leadership development is about – and to the extent that foundations decide it is important and fund it, then we and our grantees will be better positioned to achieve our goals for impact.”

Read more at Hirschfield’s blog and check out SSIR’s entire Talent Matters series to learn more about philanthropy’s chronic underinvestment in leadership and innovative solutions for greater impact.

Call to Action for Grantmakers

Does your foundation want to accelerate its impact?  And what does a leadership program look like?  Check out Leadership Advanced Milwaukee, a collaboration of Vista Global and Spectrum Nonprofit Services.

Would the nonprofit leaders in your city or region benefit from a similar leadership development program?  Contact Vista Global Coaching & Consulting to learn more about starting a cohort-based, peer-centered, professional development program in your area.

Lessons from the Land Trust Alliance Rally 2014: Storytelling and Engaged Listening

Recently I delivered a workshop entitled, “Using Coaching Skills to Build Staff Leadership” at the Land Trust Alliance Rally 2014 in Providence, RI.

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I arrived not knowing that the keynote speaker for the plenary was Andy Goodman.  I heard Andy Goodman speak in 2008 in a small room at the CompassPoint Nonprofit Day so I was thrilled to hear him again talk about Building your Story as a nonprofit.  This was a slightly different experience with 1,800 people, however still engaging and catalyzing.

Change the story, change the world

A few of Goodman’s key messages in framing your organization’s story:

  • Numbers numb
  • Jargon jars
  • Stories get stored

“Stories get inside our brains and act like software. Change the story, change the world.”

He offered an easy structure to use to create our organization’s stories.

  1. Who is it about? (there has to be a protagonist)
  2. What is it about?
  3. What is the barrier? The more barriers the better, it draws people in!
  4. What does the protagonist do?
  5. And in the end… the moral, the call to action?

Golden Rules of Storytelling

The plenary flowed beautifully into the morning workshop that I attended by Heather Yandow of 3rd Space Studio entitled, “Telling Your Land Trust’s Story”.  This workshop gave participants the opportunity to write and practice their organization’s story.

Heather added her “Golden Rules” of Storytelling.

  1. Be clear about your audience
  2. It is not about you..but it is about somebody. (The protagonist)
  3. Drop the jargon
  4. Tell the truth
  5. Bring a tear to the listener’s eye (BTW, Goodman showed three video clips and they all nailed this one!)
  6. Make the “so what” clear


Tell Your Organization’s Story

It was a inspiring learning lab and I was hoping that some of the participants that attended Heather’s workshop would attend my workshop on Coaching Skills because the interactive exercise in the workshop asks for participants to “Tell your organization’s story.”  Good fortune would have it that there were quite a few people attending my workshop that did have their story drafted and ready to tell.

Learn to Listen

Participants in my coaching workshop practiced listening- the foundational skill of coaching.  I asked them to work on mirroring, paraphrasing and drawing out the speaker.  Although it felt awkward to many, as learning any new skill does, it really raised the awareness about how well we practice fully engaged listening.

So what does listening and coaching have to do with building leadership?

Leadership is about motivating, inspiring, aligning and leveraging people’s talents.  Your ability to understand what talents your team members can contribute is enhanced by engaged listening.  Your ability to align and leverage the talents of your team members is enhanced by coaching skills.

Are you wondering how coaching and listening can build leadership throughout your organization? Give me a call, let’s chat about it!

What Can Coaching Do for You?

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires you to maximize your personal and professional potential. Coaching can help you:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what you want to achieve
  • Encourage your self-discovery
  • Guide you in generating solutions and strategies
  • Hold you responsible for achieving your goals

Improve your outlook on work and life, while improving your leadership skills and unlocking your potential.


Vista Global can help you expand your horizons with customized coaching. Using the industry’s leading assessment tools and a field-tested coaching process for optimal results.  Find the coaching package that is right for you!






Learn more about Mary’s coaching process and approach. Get started and contact Mary today for your introductory assessment.

Leadership Development through Peer Networks

As we look back on the first year of our leadership development program in Milwaukee, it’s powerful to witness the positive impact peer-learning had on Leadership Advanced participants.

Peers describe the mentoring that takes place both within the formal Leadership Advanced sessions and via LinkedIn Groups, ongoing socializing and networking.  Watch the video to learn more.

Peer Network Impact – Interviews – Leadership Advanced on Vimeo.

Is your foundation ready to fund a peer-centered learning community for greater impact? Contact Mary today.

What’s the difference between coaching, counseling and consulting?

Consider the “riding a bike” metaphor to understand the differences between coaching, consulting and counseling.


In Coaching you might hear: “You (the client) get on the bike and I will walk along side of you until you can do it.”

In Counseling you might hear: “What has your past experience been with bikes, how does that affect you now?

In Consulting you might hear: “I (the consultant) will get on the bike and then write procedures on how to do it.”

Is coaching or consulting right for you? Read more about Vista Global’s coaching and consulting services and contact Mary for your complimentary introductory sample session today!


Model of Shared Leadership: Benefits of a Mixed Cohort

Most Nonprofit Leadership Development and Learning Community programs focus solely on Executive Directors or CEOs. But the Leadership Advanced model provides a richer learning experience through a blended cohort of both Senior Managers and CEOs.

This blend of participants helps address the leadership gap facing the nonprofit sector today. By design, this learning community models shared leadership, which is so important for sustainability in the nonprofit sector.  Watch the video to learn more.

Benefits of a Mixed Cohort – Interviews – Leadership Advanced on Vimeo.


Is a mixed cohort the right approach for your leadership development initiative? Contact Mary today.