Philanthropy lessons from the garden…
Two days ago I was peaking under our row covers to smugly admire the brilliant yellow flowers on our cucumber plants. The next day I made a mad dash to the garden to yank those row covers right off. In my zeal to protect our favorite plants from the dreaded cucumber beetle, I had forgotten that if the pollinators* couldn’t get to them, those tiny cucumber nubs would never grow into yummy. How often do we do the same thing with our nonprofit projects and our grantmaking?
We can get so caught up in protecting what we’re growing that we forget about the outside actors who will ultimately determine the project’s success or failure. So often it’s the person we don’t think to invite or whom we barely notice who will be the best one to “move the pollen” to another plant so that our carefully tended seeds will bear fruit. “Pollinators” can fly in with new ideas, take what they need and fly right out again, having made us all stronger in the process. But we have make sure they can get right to the flowers. We have to know when to remove the row covers.
Here are some of the “pollinators” I’ve been appreciating in my work over the last few weeks:
- A 20 something Next Gen who’s been introducing his 13 to 15 year old cousins to how their family foundation works and showing them how they can guide the foundation trustees toward very cool projects (like using video games to help sick kids in hospitals) that would never have made their radar screens otherwise
- A transportation and development guru who’s working with me to encourage world class engineering firms to consider foundation PRIs in their capital stacks to fund innovative Public Private Partnership (P3) projects
- A film center director whose marketing ideas and film connections are leading to creative new promotions for a community food cooperative.
- A committed for-profit Angel Investor who´s making connections so the local Women´s Fund can better support female microentrepreneurs and small business owners.
Who are your potential pollinators? Think about how you can open up and provide them an inviting habitat. They only have to land briefly to introduce your idea into new, fertile soil!
*What are pollinators? In the garden they are the famous “birds & bees” , insects, bats, etc. that ensure plants produce full-bodied fruits and a viable seeds. As they go about their business, they transfer pollen in and between flowers, causing fertilization. Without pollinators we would not have apples, strawberries, melons , or squash, to name just a few of the thousands of crops pollinators make possible. (Thanks to the Pollinator Partnership for this definition. Learn more about their great work here.)
By Kristin Majeska