Embracing Complementary Opposites: Learning When to Loosen and When to Tighten

Embracing Complementary Opposites: Learning When to Loosen and When to Tighten

Recently I was working with colleagues at the Mayberg Foundation, preparing a presentation about our approach to entrepreneurial philanthropy. As we spun out some of the core operating principles we wanted to highlight, two of them struck me at first to be at odds with each other. The first had to do with the ills of over-bureaucratization. The Mayberg Foundation invests in passionate, driven, committed people. We have seen so many times that visionaries often become stifled while working in rigid organizational environments. This destroys their creativity and motivation. In order to innovate, experiment, learn and iterate, social entrepreneurs require nimble, adaptable environments. On the other hand, we are also staunch believers in the importance of proper organizational infrastructure. Those who work closely with me have heard me say time and again that all exciting ventures require three not-so-exciting counterparts in order to amount to anything real: structure, support and accountability. Process counts. As one of our trustees recently put it, “instinct only takes you so far.”

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You Can't Outsource Responsibility

You Can't Outsource Responsibility

It behooves all leaders, and certainly those who are new in their role or are in a new position or organization, to inventory their performance regularly with regard to taking responsibility. 

Whether you are in charge of an organization, a department, a team or a project, one of the most important things successful leaders must do is accept responsibility. You will rely heavily on your team to get things done, to be sure, and you will need to stay open to others’ ideas, since they frequently will be better than your own. And yes, there are always unexpected bumps in the road that are totally out of your control. But if you are to be an effective leader you need to start and finish with the premise that the one thing you carry above all is ultimate responsibility. 

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Rich Jewish Content: Releasing Divine Power, Transforming Lives

Rich Jewish Content: Releasing Divine Power, Transforming Lives

I had the pleasure of attending a gathering of Jewish funders dedicated to supporting “rich Jewish content,” in one form or another. Initiated by our friends at the Aviv Foundation and co-sponsored by the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, the event was held in New York City under the auspices of the Jewish Funders Network.

Given the Mayberg Foundation’s dedication to the proliferation of Torah wisdom and values in the contemporary world, it was gratifying for me to have the opportunity to share and learn with others who work in this space daily. In advance of the half-day gathering, attendees and noted practitioners were asked: “What does ‘rich Jewish content’ mean? What is the value of engaging more deeply with Jewish text, tradition and values?”

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Philanthropy and Nonprofits: One Sector, Not Two

Philanthropy and Nonprofits: One Sector, Not Two

I have had the dual privilege of making my living working in the world of Jewish philanthropy and, previously, putting in substantial time raising funds for and managing Jewish nonprofit organizations. The work -- and the work environment -- can be so incredibly different between philanthropic foundations and charitable organizations.  It seems we often lose sight of the fact that the funders and the funded are flip sides of the very same coin, all pursuing the same public good with private resources and voluntary actions.

The philanthropic and nonprofit sector occupies a unique place in civil society, one that addresses the many unmet human needs that neither government nor commercial activity can adequately fulfill. In pre-American, European societies, these needs were frequently met by state religious institutions. Today’s nonprofit and philanthropic world is characterized by a sometimes uneasy balance of the unbridled passions of volunteerism and the attempted efficacies of institutionalized and professionalized organizations. We can rightly take credit for many great accomplishments even as we plead guilty to recurring charges of inefficiency, waste, amateurism and occasionally out-and-out fraud.

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