Guest Post: Successful Nonprofit + Grantmaking Leaders Must "Take Our Egos Out of It"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jim Parsons w David LaPiana Donors Forum Luncheon June 2010 In thinking about David La Piana’s remarks at the Donors Forum Annual Luncheon in June, one statement in particular struck me.  Yes, “transformation is not optional” was an eye opener, but that’s not it.  It was a more simple one.  David noted that all of us can make a difference, but to do so we “must take our egos out of it."

In order to absorb much of what David said, I realize that I must start with that observation.  For example, I can’t let my view of the sector be limited by my “well over 50” understanding of where and how to find the best information and opportunities.  As a funder scanning the field for the best ideas, I must remember that conventional organizations and sources of information may not always be the ones that identify cutting edge approaches to the issues we seek to address.  If my ego screens the field before my brain has a chance to engage, my views on funding options will not be well informed. 

As new, more flexible organizational models, collaborations, and networks evolve, I can’t let my legal background or sense of “who is a player” close my mind about where the best opportunities lie.  The next “player” may be a virtual one emerging from the creative mind of a 25-year-old entrepreneur who has brought together a network of creative thinkers on an issue of critical importance.   If I rely on my traditional sources, I could well miss excellent grantmaking opportunities.

It’s frightening to think that my ego could keep me from going a level deeper and appreciating, or should I say, embracing the change that will so dramatically impact our sector.  The heading on the first page of the Convergence report David co-authored (PDF download) reads “What’s Next?  Moving at the Speed of Change.”  If I am going to help my organization stay relevant as these changes occur, I will need to leave my ego at home when I go to work. 

~ Jim Parsons, President, The Brinson Foundation

Notes from the Editor:

  • Attendees at Donors Forum's Annual Luncheon in 2010 were invited to comment on the keynote by David La Piana.  We are grateful to Donors Forum Board Member Jim Parsons of The Brinson Foundation, a Donors Forum Member, for his post. Find other posts related to this topic hereWe invite comments and guests posts from other Members, Associate Members, Forum Partners, and friends of Donors Forum.
  • Jim Parsons is pictured (above, left) with David La Piana at the Donors Forum Luncheon 6/23/10.