· Get out of the boardroom.
Using board meetings to discuss each and every individual grant can not only be tedious but can also detract from more substantial conversations about the foundation’s overall strategy. To make the most of their meetings, trustees can invite experts on relevant issues and/or representatives from grantee organizations to lead the board in a discussion or workshop. But trustees should not feel bound to the boardroom. One of the most valuable ways to learn about nonprofit organizations is to go out and visit and them. Staff are usually more than happy to make themselves available to “show off” their work for funders.
Finally, to be fully engaged and effective trustees should constantly educate themselves on both the issues their foundation supports and the philanthropic best practices that inform smart foundation management and giving. By joining a funder network—such as a Regional Association of Grantmakers—or a collaborative—such as the Environmental Funders Network or Grantmakers Without Borders—trustees can learn from their peers and connect with experts in the field. Attending philanthropy conferences and workshops can also be helpful in keeping up-to-date on trends in philanthropy and in specific issue areas.
Because certain aspects of foundation governance are beyond the scope of wealth and legal advisors’ work, many choose to partner with a philanthropic advisor—a professional who can help them to prepare clients to be the most effective trustees possible.
Providing clients with valuable recommendations and guidance around family foundation board service can be a win-win for clients and advisors alike, resulting in more satisfying philanthropic experiences and deeper client relationships.