Making the Most of a Windfall!

Let’s say that you have received an unexpected grant to your organization. It’s a large sum of money – equivalent to your annual operating budget! And there are no strings attached to how you can use these funds.

This unimaginable scenario is real. It has happened in over 1,600 organizations around the United States and across the world over the last three years as Mackenzie Scott has quietly distributed almost $16 billion (yes that’s a B, not a typo!) to non-profit and social change organizations.

So what’s the first thing you would do when this happens to you?

Not sure?

Well, you’re not alone!

I’ve been speaking with organizational leaders who have received these gifts, and many of them spoke about being unsure how best to move forward. They did not want to make a misstep at this early stage, and they wanted to move forward in ways that would create positive energy.

Listening to their stories, I’ve identified 5 good practices that leaders should consider following. You can use these practices to help you navigate the critical early months as you build support for how your organization will invest these new resources to grow and increase your impact.


1. Engage a Trusted Advisor for the CEO

There are a lot of early choices to sort through, and initial decisions set the tone for what follows. Engaging an trusted external advisor to serve as the leader’s sounding board,

2. Consider how to share the news
Give yourself the time to work through the implications of the gift. Consider how to frame the communication so that your stakeholders have appropriate expectations.

3. . Establish how you will invest in priorities

Don’t rush to decide and announce the priorities in which you will be investing. Allow time to identify your options, consider future risks, and then select priorities that leverage this unique gift.

4. Use a Working Group to run the process

Commission a group with the task of running the engagement and recommendations process. Have them engage diverse views and interests, and build buy-in for the final decisions.

5. Manage ongoing communication

After the initial excitement, there is a lot of work to be done with few decisions to be communicated. Keep your stakeholders abreast of progress and developments.



Download the full tip-sheet, and contact me to get your copy of the full Making the Most of a Windfall booklet with suggested steps and examples of how other organizations have faced this situation.



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