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Meet the Grantmakers: Let's Talk About Leadership

San Francisco, CA
September 18, 2007

Segment 5: Discussion Panel

Leadership is increasingly becoming a hot topic in the field and grantmakers often point to strong leadership as one of the key characteristics they look for when assessing the effectiveness of an organization. But organizational leadership is often made up of many players, from a strong executive director, to a highly effective program director, to dedicated and engaged board members and volunteers. And, of course, savvy grantmakers can play a leadership role in the organizations they support. This "Meet the Grantmakers" panel addresses how grantmakers assess the effectiveness of a potential grantee organization's leadership as well as how they can serve to inspire leadership within organizations by serving as catalysts to energize board members, donors, and volunteers.


  • Kenneth J. Blum, consultant, Dean Witter Foundation
  • Dan Corsello, executive director, VanLobenSels/RembeRock Foundation
  • Nancy Kami, executive director, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund

This presentation was recorded at the Foundation Center's San Francisco library/learning center on September 18, 2007. An audio version of this segment is also available as an mp3 download (right-click and choose "Save Target As").

Requires the latest version of Macromedia Flash Player.

Running time: 19:42

View segments:

Segment 1: Welcome and introductions. Discussion panel: "Give a brief overview of your foundation's mission and philanthropic objectives, and then please also tell us under what circumstances you scrutinize more closely the leadership of a particular grantee or do you find you always look at the leadership closely no matter the circumstances. Have your practices regarding evaluating a potential grantee's leadership recently shifted or consciously been addressed in some way?" [12:29]

Segment 2: Discussion panel: "What does leadership mean to you? When you are sizing up an organization's leadership what does that mean to you? Are you looking closely at the executive director, the board, a project director, or all of the above? And what do you look for in each role that signals effective leadership qualities?" [12:00]

Segment 3: Discussion panel: "Do any of you fund in certain fields where you think leadership qualities need to be more carefully scrutinized, for instance if you fund public education does that mean you look for political savvy in the leaders in whom you invest because they will need to be collaborative, flexible, and consensus builders? Or similarly for those working in social change where people might have different views on how to tackle an issue?" [13:31]

Segment 4: Discussion panel: "As leadership becomes a more prominent filter for selecting your grantees, how do you tackle evaluating the merits of a new or small organization so that innovative or new groups still can compete with the more established organizations that approach you? Or in other words, how does your evaluation of the leadership of a grassroots group differ from how you would size up the leadership of a large, established organization?" [11:47]

Segment 5: Discussion panel: "Sometimes organizations are afraid to be honest and let their funders know about leadership challenges. Tell us how you can help and why they should tell you. Are there occasions you can point to where you have been able to catalyze board members to get more involved or helped with capacity building to help an organization with succession planning?" [19:42]

Segment 6: Discussion panel: "Please give a general example or two of grantees with whom you have worked in which the organization was viewed as a risky grant for you, but you ended up funding it anyway because the leadership of the organization was able to instill confidence in you. How did they overcome your leadership concerns? What can the attendees here learn from what they did right?" [8:46]

Segment 7: Moderated question & answer session [31:36]

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