In 2003, as I began my work with the Foundation, one of my first goals was to avoid making bad grants. It’s easier to define bad grants than it is to define good ones in part because bad grants usually: lack an effective plan; or interfere with existing grants or projects; or provide no methodology for measuring and improving results. I still apply this to my current work as President, as I try to keep perspective on a world that is changing in so many ways, not the least of which is environmentally.
At the Foundation we try to listen intently and understand how to best seize opportunities when they arise. Some of our colleagues may describe us as hands-on. It is my hope that all our grantees view us as true partners who have a stake in the work. We want to help them achieve success along the way; not simply serve as an entity that is reported to. Our Foundation recognizes that we are not the experts. We need the guidance and help of many hands in order to facilitate the change we wish to see on the ground. Our work as environmental grantmakers is also sometimes an exercise in patience, as is the work of our grantees. Many factors lie outside of our control, and try as we might, our decisions are educated guesses at best. I find it reassuring to envision the amount of good coming from the collective will of our grantees, even as we accept the setbacks and losses.
I am proud that our Foundation has historically paid out more than the 5% required by law, and we will continue to do so as we strive to find the brightest opportunities amidst so many stars.