Community Foundations – Innovating in the orbit of “do good” banking

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By James Law

Impact Investing – a Market Shift

Community Foundations used to be the only place where your money could “do good” with traditional banks offering only for-profit investment.   With consumers  shifting towards investing for positive impact, banks are increasingly providing options for impact investment.

Having lost their monopoly on conscious investing, Community Foundations find themselves in the middle of a rapidly growing marketplace with their uniqueness dwindling and donor expectations rising.

Banking on Good

As consumer preferences have shifted, ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) investing, social impact investing and charitable gift programs have grown to be part of the standard offerings of wealth management firms and financial institutions. Coupled with their robust administrative engines, which provide easy to access investor statements, white-glove customer service and simple tax management, banks are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the charitable space.  Savvy investors are considering investment service providers as a one-stop-shop for  all their financial needs.  They want convenience, transparency and speed on top of the “good” investing, like being able to login online, see fund returns and charitable giving information.

Donor Expectations

Since financial institutions have moved into impact investing, many donors are expecting Community Foundations to provide a professional level of service, enabled by technology.  Large banks deliver online portals and transactions, immediate personalized service and quick turnaround times. Community Foundations don’t have the luxury of large budgets for donor relationship management and will have to take innovative approaches in their digital strategies to provide the high level, digitally enabled services donors are demanding.  

GrantBook helps Community Foundations by recommending right-sized tools that work together to meet their donor needs.

Right Sized Tools that Work Together

If your Community Foundation is considering an investment in technology, it is important to ask the right questions before choosing tools. For example,

  • What are the priorities and needs of all stakeholders?
  • How can we reduce inefficiencies while remaining diligent and compliant?
  • How can we get a team agreement on how to move forward?

Working with Community Foundations, GrantBook has seen success in implementing cloud-based fund and grants management systems with donor portals and self-serve options.  This solution  eases the administrative burden placed on Community Foundation staff members. Taking advantage of automations and integrations between e-mail, e-commerce and newsletter solutions can reduce manual data entry and errors.  These types of solutions allow Foundation staff to work more openly, breathe easier and take the time needed to focus on strategic activities.

Protecting Your Technology Investment

Managing through change is a challenge in any organization.  Transforming people, organization, processes and technology is even harder.  However, when co-development with full stakeholder inclusion is applied, the risk of a failed technology investment is greatly mitigated.

Through GrantBook’s experience in Digital Strategy, we’ve seen the benefits of bringing staff members together to share their concerns, challenges and ideas for moving forward.Creating alignment on a Digital Strategy can allow a Community Foundation to make small innovations already in the minds of staff. While technology tools and solutions can enable innovation, investing in the users of these tools is where these game-changing moments can occur.

The  “how” of transformation is the key to Community Foundation sustainability and relevance.  With the appropriate strategy, Community Foundations can make the most of their nimble size to positively impact their communities.

GrantBook is a team of philanthropy advisors enabling greater net value through technology,  process  and people  strategies – resulting in transformative social impact.

Community Foundations facing Disruption: Re-imaging Talent & Digital Strategy – Key for Survival

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By Anil Patel & Michelle N Moore

Community Foundations are complex entities with many moving parts, whether small and rural with with few staff, Donor Advised Funds and nonprofits to support, or the large urban counterpart.  

Looking closer at the mandate, structure, policies and procedures, the real functional parts appear: part financial institution, community organizer, fundraiser, program deliverer and grant maker.


While participating in recent philanthropic events, (Philanthropic Foundations Canada, Technology Affinity Group), GrantBook listened to Community Foundation stakeholders share stories of complexity, disruption and needed change.  

There are daily transactional complexities like preparing Donor Advised Fund Statements.  There is new competition as the Community Foundation is forced to compete with CSR programs and social investment products to provide the “doing good” investment vehicle.  Finally, the growing technological disruption is impacting our economy and large groups of workers.

Dr. Emmett Cason (Silicon Valley Community Foundation) highlighted the key leadership challenges facing Community Foundations during his thought provoking speech at the Vital City Shift Event (hosted by Calgary Foundation):

  • Leadership must recognize and have acute awareness that technology disruption will require a philanthropic guidelines shift (as self-driving trucks may eliminate the need for long-haul truck drivers);
  • Leadership must embrace the mindset of acting local and global simultaneously to account for our increasing human connectivity, be it technological or epidemic (as seen by the outbreak of Ebola in Africa with its potential to spread to our local communities).

Community Foundation – Talent & Technology Landscape

The examples of disruption caused GrantBook to pause and conduct an assessment of the Community Foundation landscape. In December 2016, we analyzed publically available data on 30+ Community Foundations (33% Canadian, 63% US). With $19 billion under management, a median asset size of $520 million and 1,113 staff members organized within seven departments (see table below), Community Foundation’s are complex machines.

Considering all the events they host, grantees they convene, funds they raise, research they produce, grants they provide, fundholders to cater to, and collaborators they have to work with, Community Foundation’s get a lot done despite minimal discretionary resources to invest in expensive technologies or unproven methodologies. However, we’ve heard first hand there is a gap, in people, process and IT investment that meets the future wants and needs of Community Foundation staff.  Can this gap continue?

This gap is most evident when looking at existing Community Foundation organizational structures and talent (skills) represented.  The chart below depicts the 7 typical functional areas of a Community Foundation.

This simple chart tells us how heavy the workload and investment is for the functions, Finance and Granting & Investments, and how sparse the attention is on community insights through creative, data and technology talent.

GrantBook’s innovation strategy is based on the power of observation from within and outside the sector, leading us to understand how other industries and companies have responded in talent & technology management to similar disruptions, competition, and transactional complexities.  Thus, GrantBook developed the following method of inquiry:


What other industries are undergoing substantial and rapid change?


What are the companies that are leading the disruption?


How are they building their teams & attracting top talent?


What is one example of a job description that is reflective of their innovation?

Our inquiry revealed that Community Foundations have the opportunity to apply some of the lessons learned to remain relevant and stay ahead of disruption.  Other sectors are leading the change required to meet the disruption head-on in order to deliver on their strategic mandates.  Some examples are given below for the travel, health, education and other sectors.

Career pages and job postings reveal some clear trends for talent including new terms like: “insights”, “prototyping”, “agile”, “experience”, “data”, “user”. In the chart below, disruptive companies and their recent job postings are highlighted (December 2016)

The research shows that companies are hiring and designing their organizational structures, to build for life in the fast lane, a lane full of disruptions.

Fighting for Talent

There is a whole new set of sought-after jobs such as User-experience Designers, Data Scientists, Scrum Masters, and API specialists that are being gobbled up. For instance, there are nearly 130 positions for Scrum Masters/Agile Consultants on LinkedIn alone:

The Future of the Community Foundation

What does this all mean for the Community Foundation movement? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Should boards invest – with the same urgency as banks – in FinTech innovation?  (see example at
  • How can Senior management reimagine their talent and digital strategy to support a digitally enabled, creative team?
  • What opportunities are there for existing front line staff to train up to thrive in 2017 and beyond?

Why? Growing assets through fundraising might help. Automating systems may deliver efficiencies. Investment strategies that outperform the market could do the trick. But highly engaged – and digitally empowered – teams will win the day.  

How the Cloud protected a Philanthropic Foundation from Paying Hackers

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Canadian Family Foundation Attacked

By Kenny Li

GrantBook was contacted by its client, a small family foundation, when a staff member noticed files missing from the usual folders……..with foreign files showing up in their place. They were in a bit of a panic as all preparations for the board meeting the next day had disappeared!

Is the charitable sector immune to cyber attacks?

The recent cyber attacks on Carleton University (Canada) and the San Francisco local transit authority, with ransomware hackers demanding $39,000 and $93,000 respectively, may have gone unnoticed to professionals working in the philanthropic sector.

However, around the same time a Canadian foundation was also attacked.  Again, hackers deployed ransomware* and were demanding payment to restore access to foundation files.

*Ransomware is a type of cyber attack (malware) that sends a virus through an organization, encrypting files with a password known only to the hackers. A financial ransom is demanded from the victim to unlock the files and regain access. Without the password, organizations find it extremely difficult to decrypt and get their information back in good condition. For example, the University of Calgary made the controversial choice to pay a $20,000 ransom earlier this year to regain access to their systems.

How BOX saved the day

This foundation stores their files in a cloud-based software called Box. Everyone uses the tool, Box Sync, to keep files synchronized between a personal desktop folder and the Web.

The ransomware virus deleted all the files on the infected computer (including files in the Box Sync folder), replacing them with garbled-looking, encrypted copies. Box Sync then shared these “updates” with the rest of the team, syncing the encrypted (bad) files to all computers in the organization.

The GrantBook team reviewed usage logs to identify the infected computer (likely infected after the user clicked a link in an email).   Box’s file history was used to reverse the damaging changes (made by the hackers). GrantBook got the foundation up and running again – just in time for their end of year board meeting!

While initially Box made the problem worse by spreading these bad files, Box ultimately saved the day.

Protect your Foundation with Risk Management

Too often, foundations do not utilize standard risk management practices, including adequate protection against technology risks. This puts operations and confidential information at risk of threats such as hard drive failure, computer theft and ransomware.

Without a robust Cloud storage tool like Box, the foundation would have been faced with the choice of paying ransom (with no guarantee of having the files released), or accept the loss and start over.

Consider Cloud-based Tools

Adoption of cloud-computing in the philanthropic sector is increasing. However, many foundations believe files stored outside of physical computers (and out of immediate control) are at risk of a cyber attack. This fear is based on the assumption that files are more secure if access, storage, security and backups are fully managed in-house.

GrantBook believes that the right Cloud-based tools, combined with best practice enterprise-wide risk management standards (including technology risk mitigation) can enable philanthropists to focus more of their time and efforts on solving world problems.

Contact GrantBook today for a conversation.

GrantBook is a team of philanthropy advisors enabling greater net value through technology, process & people strategies resulting in transformative social impact.

From Grantmaking to Impact Investing – with Measurement!

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TAG 2016 Conference Highlights

By Anil Patel & Michelle N Moore

The Technology Affinity Group conference “Impact: Collectively Changing Communities” (Nov. 14-17, 2016) was a sold out gathering of 275 philanthropic COOs, IT Directors, Operations & Grants Managers and Accidental but Purposeful Techies.

Key questions overheard, indicating a shift in mindset about granting, included:

How can we

  • change the mindset from “grantmaking workflow” to “investment workflow”?
  • view grants as investment vehicles?
  • shift the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) role from administrative to decision support?
  • shift a Program Officer role from due diligence to investor?

The Measuring Impact plenary was a highlight.  Led by Mariana Catz, with panelists pictured below, expertise was shared on how tech innovation in granting platforms and the subsequent tech disruptions have affected our ability as a sector to measure impact.

Mariana Catz
Ontario Trillium Foundation
View Linkedin Profile

Michelle DiSabato
View LinkedIn Profile

David Goodman
View LinkedIn Profile

Henry Bromelkamp
Bromelkamp LLC
View LinkedIn Profile

Mariana shared, “we are change agents, not technology people!” This shift is illustrated in her team’s job titles as ‘Impact Investment Specialists’ rather than ‘Grants Managers’.

Evidence-based Philanthropy

MicroEdge’s Michelle DiSabato, noted there has been a big shift in recent years from ‘philanthropy via grants’ into ‘investing into communities. Michelle recounted her previous corporate philanthropy role when her CFO challenged the team to stop chequebook philanthropy driven by emotion and move towards evidence based philanthropy.

Culture Shift towards High Quality, Shared Data

David Goodman of Fluxx noted that simply adding a dedicated researcher to a foundation will not solve the impact puzzle. Rather, the entire organization’s cultural commitment to finding useful, credible data is needed while communicating this information in an engaging, easily understood way to foundation board members. Systems integration is also key. Core technologies (e.g. Office Productivity, CRM, GMS) must connect so that information can be sliced and diced.

Using External Data

Henry Bromelkamp was helping a national arts coalition develop a common taxonomy that would allow for longitudinal data collection and analysis when the danger of formulaic funding models became apparent. For instance, if an application for funding scored 0.8 based on rubric, it would only get 0.8 of the funding. He encouraged data-hungry decision makers to consider pulling external data sources (e.g. census data) into their decision-making software for additional context not otherwise visible in a grant application.

Engaging conversation continued at the Exhibitor Booths with questions on how to:

  • ensure team members have access to technologies they love using?
  • make sure data is secure and safe?
  • ensure data is accurate across software applications?
  • properly budget for all the associated costs?
  • develop a data strategy so an organization can measure impact?
  • design the right data and dashboards?
  • anonymize data for open data sharing purposes?

What questions do you have?

GrantBook believes in connecting people, processes and technology for greater social impact. We look forward to sharing the HOW with you at;

Foundation Success: Up and Out — rising above the fog of manual tasks

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When GrantBook speaks to foundation staff, they lament about having too many manual tasks – time consuming burdens that get in the way of strategic work. Whether your role is the Communication Specialist, Program Officer, Grants Manager, Comptroller or Foundation Executive, legacy processes paired with poorly configured technology creates wasted time and unnecessary work.

Examples include:

  • A communication specialist cutting and pasting an invitation list from emails and a grants management system
  • A comptroller pulling data from their accounting system, budget spreadsheet and grants management platform
  • A grants manager manually uploading documents into their grants management system
  • A foundation executive asking staff to send their spreadsheets over for the board book presentation

Many foundation staff aspire to do more strategic work. However, by the time they get settled back to their desks, they immediately are sucked back into the day-to-day (just ask any foundation staff member who has recently attended an inspiring philanthropy conference).

So how do we turn this frown upside down? How do we relieve pain points and get to the work that matters? 

To begin, we have to acknowledge the hidden villain: technology hype cycle. The hype cycle typically kicks off when a foundation staff member is introduced to a new tool (technology trigger). They get very excited thinking that the solution is going to save time or improve decision-making (peak of inflated expectations). However, a majority of the time the software that cost a lot of time and/or money does not meet expectations (trough of disillusionment). This is usually the point when the new technology is abandoned (abandonment). But every once and awhile – with a lot of planning and persistence – teams can experience workplace euphoria (plateau of productivity).

Workplace euphoria is the magical place where most (if not all) users needs are met. It is the part of the workplace productivity where there are few bottlenecks and workarounds. It affords team members with the time to sit around a table and spend time on strategy (seeing from a better vantage point), not on tasks (stuck in the fog).  

 Tasks (in the fog)

Mission (In the strategic)

Whether it is a small foundation with a few staff or a larger organization with many staff, getting out of the fog and into a more strategic place is both necessary and achievable. Has your team been caught in the hype cycle? Are your team members stuck in the fog of manual tasks? If so, drop us a line.

Post Philanthropic Foundations of Canada Conference Reflections

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By Anil Patel

Michelle and I have just returned from the 2016 Philanthropic Foundations of Canada bi-annual conference. It was a jam-packed four days. The pre-conference activity kicked off with the Grantmakers Round table. 

The roundtable was facilitated by our friend and colleague Patrick Johnson of Borealis Advisors. He lead a group of two dozen staff and board members through the five stages of the grantmaking lifecycle. He drilled down on how to design/refine a grantmaking framework, how to obtain good grant proposals, making the grant, managing your grants and finally closing the grant. I had an opportunity to share insights on the growing grants management software choices in the sector and how a digital strategy can help foundations avoid the hype that sometimes comes with grantmaking software (view presentation).

After the roundtable concluded, the main conference began. The plenary and deep-dives focused in on:

  • How do we plan for and build more sustainable communities and spaces?
  • How do we engage in greater understanding, reconciliation and respectful partnership with Aboriginal communities in Canada?
  • What new funder knowledge exchange networks are being created in Canada and around what themes?
  • How can we apply the lessons from innovation and systems thinking to have more impact?
  • How can we learn from the lessons of smaller Canadian foundations who are using innovative approaches to the deployment of their resources?
  • How do we assess our effectiveness in this more collaborative and open space?

Paul Lacerte, CEO of the Moosehide Campaign Development Society gave a powerful speech descrbing his personal journey that lead him and his daughter to lauch the Moosehide campaign. Their goal is to get 500,000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men to stand up against violence. He encouraged conference participants to make the pledge and spread the word as they march into 2017.

On Wednesday night, many conference-goers visited the Musqueam Cultural Centre. We listened to Elder Larry Grant of the Musqueam Nation provide a short history of their people that have lived in the area uninterrupted for over 4,000 years. We then had a wonderful meal while watching members of the Musqueam community sing and dance for us.

Thursday morning, we listened into Phil Buchanan from the Centre for Effective Philanthropy deliver a summary of the CEP’s recent report Big Issues, Many questions. He shared five big concepts:

  1. Fundamental questions about the role of philanthropy as the so-called establishment comes under fire
  2. Questioning the traditional approach to endowment management
  3. An evolving notion of what good strategy and measurement look like in philanthropy
  4. The embracing of – or return to – aligned action among funders (and with other actors)
  5. A new sophistication in considering how to support nonprofits effectively

Phil had some of the room laughing and some cringing at his proactive calls-to-action and things to consider. Specifically, how foundations must consider aligning their assets with their granting (endowment management). He framed it by stating “that rhetoric is outpacing action”.

After the panel, we heard from James Temple at the PwC Foundation lead a session “Thinking about Systems: a global perspective” with Helle Bank Jorgensen, President Global Compact Network Canada and Dr Jacline Nyman, President and CEO United Way Canada discuss three topics:

  1. How new technologies and big data are empowering better decision making about measurement and systems level change
  2. Why systems change projects must start from the inside out
  3. What are the most effective measures and frameworks to help us track impact

The conversation focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) There are 17 SGDs ranging from ending poverty to partnering for the goals. Attendees were quite interested in learning more about how their current goals align (or not) with the SDGs.

Closing the conference, PfC Board Hosts, Laura Manning (Lyle S. Hallman Foundation) and Allan Northcott (VP, Max Bell Foundation) summarized a few really important take-aways:

  1. Reconciliation: Foundations do have a role – and have been invited – to participate in reconciliation
  2. Using data better: Considerable opportunity for the foundation to take advantage of all the data and information they and their grantees generate and have access to
  3. Collaboration: By using an abundance mindset (Canadian foundations manage billions in assets), collaborations are important strategies amongst funders and allies.

GrantBook looks forward to working with the PfC movement in the future, and grateful to participate this year.

Put your smartphone on notice: Peter Deitz on staying hyperconnected while going phone-free

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Photograph via

Photograph via

Catching the next great wave of tech innovation

Most longtime techies will be the first to admit that they live in a constant state of looking out for the the next great wave of technology innovation. Sometimes, you just catch it. And sometimes you gravely misread the movements of the sea. Two of my noticeable misreads were believing IBM’S OS/2 would supplant Windows 95 as the OS to beat in the mid-’90s and, a decade later, hoping that the Nokia 770 – not-quite-tablet and not-quite-phone – would find its way to a mainstream audience. Misses aside, the search for the next great wave is what I find so fun and exhilarating about being in tech. And that is what drew me this past spring to the challenge of giving up my mobile phone altogether while remaining hyperconnected.

At the start of 2016, I found myself with an aging iPhone 4 (2010), a MacBook Air (2011) and an iPad Mini 2 with LTE (2013). The iPhone 4 was slowing down and over time had become a nearly single-function device. It was merely the scrap of metal and glass that I had to carry with me to make and receive phone calls. Every other aspect of my communications and digital life had migrated over to the iPad Mini. I entertained the idea of upgrading to an iPhone 5s so that I could leave my phone in my messenger bag and have all my text messages and phone calls appear on my iPad. The hardware change would have been a zero-cost upgrade through Rogers Wireless, but it would have locked me into another two-year contract. There had to be a better way to go phone-free.

Unfortunately, both Apple and Canada’s behemoth Rogers Wireless seemed bent on me not turning my iPad into the universal communications device I wanted it to become. I took the impediments Apple and Rogers Wireless presented as a personal challenge. And that’s when the solution started to reveal itself.

Introducing the Pebble Time Round

My full-time work is in philanthropy. At GrantBook, I help grantmakers spot the next wave of technology solutions that will help them run more efficient and effective philanthropy processes. It came, therefore, as a pleasant surprise to find that one significant part of my phone-free future had its start in the philanthropic market. Back in 2012 (the same year that my colleague, Anil Patel, and I were starting GrantBook), the Vancouver-born and University of Waterloo-educated Eric Migicovsky was raising money on Kickstarter for a little-known startup called Pebble.

Between April 11, 2012 and May 18, 2012, Migicovsky succeeded in raising $10.3 million in voluntary contributions on the promise that his startup would create a Bluetooth-enabled smartwatch that could send notifications from any iOS or Android device to a user’s wrist. I took note of the campaign at the time and wasn’t alone in celebrating it as the moment crowdfunding (or what we used to call micro-philanthropy) had reached maturity.

Photograph via PC World

Photograph via PC World

To go phone-free, I first needed a device that would alert me to incoming email, social media and calendar notifications as they rolled into my iPad. Otherwise, I would have to choose between routinely pulling my iPad out of my messenger bag to check for new alerts or going into the equivalent of airplane mode for long stretches of the day. The Pebble Time Round solved this problem – and solved it with a design simplicity that frequently draws compliments and questions from people I meet. Whenever a new alert comes into my iPad, I now get a gentle nudge on my wrist and a snippet of text that alerts me to the sender, content and app that generated the message. I now feel more connected and never need to check my phone. In fact, I feel connected enough that I no longer have one to check.

After solving for the notifications challenge, I then needed to figure out what to do with the Rogers Wireless telephone number that I had relied on for more than nine years. Whether we like it or not, social media and messaging platforms have not completely eliminated the need for a phone number. Password recovery and security platforms require a phone number for authentication. Friends and family need a number where they know they can reach you in case of an emergency. Countless life administration tasks – getting a credit card, renewing a driver’s license, filing taxes or signing a lease – still require a phone number on record.

Uncoupling the number from the mobile phone

I had tried various VoiP solutions in the past that included as a free or premium add-on the possibility of creating a new U.S. and Canadian phone number. Until I discovered Waterloo-based Fongo, none of the VoiP platforms I had come across had given me the option of porting my existing Rogers Wireless, Bell or Telus number to their system. Within days of learning about Fongo in April of 2016, I filled out the form on their website, inviting me to port my Rogers Wireless number over to their system. After the porting was complete, and without looking back, I canceled my Rogers Wireless phone plan.

Weeks earlier, I had placed my order for the Pebble Time Round and was waiting for it to arrive from Singapore. When the watch finally arrived, the combination of my newly-unboxed Pebble Time Round, connected via Bluetooth to my iPad Mini with LTE and supported by a Rogers Wireless Tablet Plan, allowed me to step out of my apartment in Toronto with no phone to my name (just an instance of Fongo installed on the iPad). I had succeeded in putting myself in the category of highly-connected techie without a cell phone.

I am happy to report that I have been phone-free since May 18, 2016. That’s the requisite 90 days probation period needed to demonstrate that it’s possible, and I do not see myself going back anytime soon. The greatest benefit is the knowledge that all of my notifications are in one place. I never have to reconcile my phone notifications with my iPad notifications. It’s all on one single screen in my iPad and selectively pushed to my wrist via the Pebble app.

Another benefit is that I am saving $60 per month. Fongo charges me $15 CAD once every six months for unlimited U.S. and Canada text messaging. As needed, I can buy phone credits for making calls to the U.S. and internationally. I purchased a $50 CAD phone credit three months ago and have only used $3.42 CAD in three months. On Fongo, calls to most Canadian cities are free. By contrast, I was often paying over $100 a month to Rogers Wireless for a package that included only one 1GB of data, unlimited texting and unlimited calls. On the Rogers Wireless tablet plan, I now get 5GB of Data for $40 CAD plus tax. Because LTE is so fast, VoiP calls over data through Fongo are almost always just as good as when I used to make calls using my iPhone. And this is to say nothing of the multiple hundreds of dollars I may have spent to upgrade my iPhone 4 to a flagship device if I had chosen to continue living in the phone paradigm.

There have been three small challenges with the new set up. For one, my team members at GrantBook, my friends and my partner often laugh at me when they spot me holding my iPad up to my head for phone calls. This happens very rarely since I’m plugged into a headset for most of my calls. Another challenge is that my iPad isn’t as small as my iPhone. As a result, if I want to be connected, I have to carry one of my two messenger bags with me to store my iPad. Since my iPad had already supplanted my iPhone for most purposes, this was already the case. Finally, initiating calls from Fongo often requires that I copy the number from wherever I have it typed out into Fongo in order to make the call. By contrast, on the iPhone I was able to simply click on a number the iPhone recognized as a phone number and the call would be placed.

These are small irritants against a much brighter backdrop of pushing technology to its limits, integrating a philanthropy-backed device into my core hardware suite and experiencing as an early adopter what I hope will be one of the next great waves of technology innovation – the uncoupling of your phone number from the device you call your phone.

Trends within Philanthropy, 2016: greater impact, more collaboration and smarter processes

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GrantBook's Haifa Staiti talks impact reporting

GrantBook’s Haifa Staiti talks impact reporting


Grant Book is fortunate to work with many leading grantmakers in Canada and the US. As we’ve closely interacted with members of the philanthropic sector over the last year, we have come to hear the words “philanthropic trends” on many occasions. Like most organizations involved in philanthropy, we are eager to hear and learn about the latest best practices, innovative strategies and promising trends in this space. It is because of this desire that we embarked on a review of current philanthropy trends. We started with a literature review of the most influential publications that discussed trends in philanthropy in 2016. We then summarized, distilled and organized the most promising and most important, in our view, trends.  The result was the following list of what we deem to be the biggest trends in the philanthropic sector for 2016 and the next few years.

Impactful Philanthropy

  • Impact Investing: Impact investing refers to investments made into companies, organizations or funds with the intention of generating social and or environmental benefit in addition to a financial return. This new way to mobilize private capital is exploding in popularity amongst organizational and individual philanthropy. As a social-purpose business whose mission is to support the effective mobilization of philanthropic capital, we at GrantBook are – not surprisingly – very excited about this trend. We will certainly continue to watch development in the field on impact investing and continue to learn and share what we know as the field grows and matures over the coming years.
  • Impact Reporting: Once upon a time it was sufficient for an not for profit organization to provide a narrative summary of where its money went and count the number of projects funded/completed and people served. This is no longer enough. Today’s donors are financially savvy, socially and environmentally conscious and are comfortable enough to do their research online and off before, during and after they give their gifts. Non profits are now expected to not only report on where the money goes but, most importantly, on the short, medium and long-term change that the funding enabled in the lives of those served.
  • Impact Measuring: As a result of the push towards more quantitative reporting to go alongside the qualitative storytelling-style reporting, philanthropic organizations will continue to need to dedicate more energy towards evaluating their programs and measuring their impact in meaningful ways. Realizing impact isn’t something you demonstrate once in awhile. The need for measuring impact will continue to be important.

Collaborative Philanthropy

  • Sharing of Data and Resources: Given the large number of organizations and the resulting fragmentation of the sector, it is no surprise this trend seems to be the most promising (after impact). Collaboration is one way to make the sector more effective, and philanthropic organizations are recognizing that. 2016, thus, will be the year that the nonprofit world enters the sharing/collaboration economy.  Organizations will begin to tap into existing, underutilized resources. This is including the sharing of data, best practices, tools, interns, employees and office/event space and the formation of umbrella organizations guiding and funding groups of charities in related fields. One example that comes to our mind is our current client, the Vancouver Community Foundation. VF has recently announced its intent to enter the world of open data by  adopting open licence policy through Creative Commons.  
  • Building Strong Relationships:  It is no wonder that given the move to more sharing and collaboration in the philanthropic sector we also see an increased focus on building strong and lasting relationships with stakeholders. Additionally, data shows that giving by individuals/households has been declining over the past four decades while the size of gifts has increased. This highlights the fact that philanthropy depends on relationships. Fundraising is much more focused now on ways to develop meaningful ways for cultivating relationships with donors.  Philanthropic gifts of any size are given as a result of relationships built on trust and confidence and this trend is expected to continue to grow in 2016 and beyond.

Smart Philanthropy

  • Lean Philanthropy: The rise of “full-service philanthropy shops” and intermediary organizations means that new donors are less interested in staffing their own foundations. Most new donors are not interested in creating traditional foundations of the kind created by earlier generations of donors. “We’re seeing more people taking an outsource approach. A lot of people have a lean staff, and are looking to lean on others for grantmaking advice and execution,”  says Nick Tedesco, West Coast lead of J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s Philanthropy Centre.
  • Venture philanthropy: The type of giving that melds philanthropy with a venture capital structure, is considered one of the most promising trends. This type of philanthropy can be very effective in certain areas, such as highly capital-intensive medical research.
  • Digitally Enabled Philanthropy: While Canada and the US have several outstanding digital thought leaders, uptake remains slow for digital and cloud-based tools for data management, fund development and program delivery. In 2016, this “digital divide” will continue to shrink as knowledge, training and tools become increasingly accessible and affordable. Our hope at GrantBook is to support this movement toward digitization by working with those organizations implementing innovative technology tools and supporting access to technology for all users.

#GrantBookDozen: Welcome Michelle Moore, GrantBook’s new Managing Director!

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Michelle Moore, GrantBook's newest Managing Director

Michelle Moore, GrantBook’s newest Managing Director

If you’ve been following our #GrantBookDozen series, you’ll know that our team is a diverse group of vibrant individuals, connected by a passion for enabling social change. Over the past six months, we’ve been preparing for a major transition. One of GrantBook’s cofounders, Peter Deitz, will be moving into a new role — sitting on GrantBook’s Board of Directors. Peter’s decision to shift into an advisory position made space for us to add a new Managing Director to our team. We’re thrilled to announce that Michelle Moore has filled this position.

Michelle is migrating over from the corporate sphere, and is looking forward to working specifically in the impact space. Michelle, too, supports the #ShareWellAndProsper philosophy:

“I love connecting people and teams for collective transformation,” she says. “It is fascinating to view the big puzzle of philanthropy and then drill down to figure out how all the pieces fit, leading to the central puzzle piece of positive human impact.  I am motivated to simplify this maze of complexity.”

Michelle may be new to our team, but she’s certainly not short on vision. What does she think the next decade in philanthropy will bring?

“I envision grantmaking in 2025 as efficient and collaborative, less political, less bureaucratic and with a high level of measurable impact. I feel there is a positive shift in our societal mindset towards humanity.  As more people choose to engage in work for the greater good, a truly holistic approach to solving the world’s problems is possible.  In 2025,  the weakest participants in the philanthropic system will have a greater voice, enabling the highest potential contribution in social innovation.”

In Michelle’s free time she’s a yoga instructor and an open water swimmer — a great addition to a highly active group. As she moves into the new role, she has a few words of advice to share with grantmakers:

“Tap into collective wisdom and collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!”

She’s certainly got a strong team to collaborate with. Here’s a summary of what they have to say:

Want to congratulate Michelle Moore on her new role? Connect with her over email at This concludes our #GrantBookDozen series! We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about our team. We’ve certainly enjoyed sharing our thoughts with you.

#GrantBookDozen: What is ‘flow?’ Peter Deitz explains how to get peak meaning and enjoyment in one’s career

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GrantBook's CoFounder, Peter Deitz

GrantBook’s CoFounder, Peter Deitz

Peter Deitz, GrantBook’s CoFounder, has played a pivotal role in getting GrantBook off the ground and providing direction in the five years since launching. Peter is a New York native, a strategic thinker, a supportive leader and a visionary. He’s also an entrepreneur at heart, which has lead him to build several successful businesses over his career — GrantBook being the most recent.

His work at GrantBook has provided him with a deep sense of purpose, something he calls Flow:

“A few months back, I presented on the topic of Flow at one of GB’s internal knowledge shares. At the heart of Flow — a concept that Rahi on our team introduced me to — is the insight that people experience peak meaning and enjoyment from their work (broadly defined) when they are given the chance to tackle new and increasingly complex tasks and, over time, can see their own growth reflected in the type of work they are doing,” says Peter. “My five years at GrantBook have been a continuous journey in and out of Flow states. I can’t think of anything more meaningful. That’s why I love what I do.”

Clearly the GrantBook team sees a more efficient, collaborative and digital future for grantmakers. However, the heart of philanthropy, Peter says, will remain the same:

“A decade from now, the fundamentals of grantmaking will be exactly as they are today. Certain individuals, organizations and networks of people will have at their disposal unprecedented concentrations of capital, creativity and connections. And with those 3 C’s, many people will feel driven to invest what they can in meaningful and impactful work. The mechanics of how the 3 C’s are invested and in what kinds of projects may change. The impetus to make a difference with the resources at one’s disposal is timeless and will continue.”

Part of being a great leader is being willing to ask the hard questions and be reflective. Peter recommends that grantmakers be willing to ask themselves the following important question:

“I would recommend to our clients that they ask out loud, ‘How can I be a good client?’ This has only happened for us once in five years and so I think it’s worth sharing here. Needless to say, there is a correlating and equally powerful question that any grantmaker can ask out loud to its grantees, staff and partners.”

Peter has an incredibly diverse set of hobbies. In his spare time he dabbles in vegan cooking, traditional Canadian fiddling, audiobooks of all kinds, ultimate frisbee and long distance running. He also experiments with new technologies — particularly the wearable kind. He recently spent the past five months learning how to uncouple his phone number with his iphone and migrate fully to the Pebble Time Round.

Interested in learning more from a thought leader in both the philanthropy and technology spaces? Send Peter an email at or connect with him via Twitter @peterdeitz.