The Knight Foundation has compiled a self-congratulatory report they’d like the entire philanthropic community to embrace.
For professional reasons, I reviewed the report carefully. A self-praising screed with which they’re apparently enamored, they’re sure the rest of the world will be similarly smitten. IMHO, it boils down to a very few findings, all of which appear in the Captain Obvious playbook that large, hidebound, stuffy, self-directed organizations tend to overlook. E.g.,:
- If Foundations offer more grant opportunities, they’ll receive more grant applications and broaden the range of applicants.
- Promoting grant opportunities aggressively, using the network of established outlets with large constituencies, encourages new participants.
- The fewer restrictions on fundable activities, the more activities will be proposed.
- Facilitating the application process encourages non-traditional applicants to participate.
Can I hear a collective, “Duh”? But they’re very proud of themselves, and now they’ve launched a webinar on August 8th for other grant-makers to share their wisdom.
If you haven’t already, click here to register today (**limited spaces available) and get instructions on how to join the webinar…..The webinar is being done in conjunction with a new report from the Knight Foundation, “Why Contests Improve Philanthropy: Six Lessons on Designing Public Prizes for Impact,” and builds on Case’s work in contests and challenges over the past six years, including the Make It Your Own Awards, America’s Giving Challenge, White House Summit on Prizes and Challenges and Finding Fearless.
(I can’t promise that these links will work: they don’t for me, even though as a grantee organization, Knight sent them to me directly. Given my lifelong history, I hesitate to blame Knight or anybody else for sloppy technology, but at the same time, I can state that over the years, my experience with their on-line programs and reporting system has been dismal, and their staff loath to acknowledge user difficulties.)
In fact, anybody in the grant-seeking business could have told them (and probably did — but they never listen) that their grant-award process was ineffective save for its capacity to direct huge funding to precisely the recipients they pre-select for awards. It is a deliberately-closed system barely masquerading as a granting mechanism, heavily reliant on a Who Knows Whom basis, and not at all meant to uncover the sorts of new projects/artists/grantees that would energize the creative community they claim they wish to nurture.
Their strange use of the word “Contest” throughout the study — which, by the way, is presented in a very difficult-to-read on-line format (see link) — threw me at first, until I realized it merely describes a commonplace grant opportunity — the only distinction consisting of its wide promotion to an extended pool of prospective applicants, a departure from the established MO to ensure tight control. In fact, this represents progress, and better late than never, but it’s a tiny overdue step, and there are a myriad of approaches they might have implemented that would have demonstrated more leadership, acuity, and commitment to the community.
If they’d like to hear what these approaches are, I’d be delighted to work with them. For a price, of course.
All this aside, I doubt you’d hear too many discouraging words about Knight’s work in the community to infuse the arts with significant, desperately needed funding. In fact, they’ve done yeoman’s work to encourage creativity and launch innovative projects. Their classless self-congratulatory stance needs to be set aside in the “ends justifies the means” spirit. They could have done much more, much sooner, and much better.
But we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. In my view, it’s worth one blog post. Thanks for stopping by.