New Philanthropy Blogs

Two new philanthropy blogs popped up in the last couple of days:

New Voices of Philanthropy is authored by Trista Harris, a program officer at an unnamed Minnesota community foundation:

This blog covers issues of generational change in the philanthropic sector and more broadly trends in philanthropy. This is a wide range of topics from how professional training programs in philanthropy are creating a younger applicant pool for foundation positions to how Google is revolutionizing the concept of philanthropy. We are in a unique period of time where baby boomers are retiring and Gen Xers have made it clear that they are not content with keeping the status quo in the nonprofit or foundation sectors. I believe we are in an important period of rapid evolution in the philanthropic field, which is very significant for a field has been traditionally stagnant (or based on years of history and tradition, depending on your perspective). I will use this blog to document that evolution.

Inside Foundations is authored anonymously by a program associated at one of the top 30 largest foundations:

I hope Inside Foundations will give folks on both sides of the grantmaker/grantee fence a place to see new perspectives, learn new things, and to peek over my shoulder as I learn the ropes of life in a Foundation. The biggest thing I have learned so far – giving away money is much harder than I ever thought it would be!

I look forward to reading both, but what’s the deal with anonymous blogs by foundation employees? I get why a blog like Don’t Tell The Donor is written anonymously, but shouldn’t philanthropic entities who are trying to affect social change want to get their message out? In an industry where competition serves no one and cooperation furthers the mission of all philanthropic entities, why are the major foundations not participating in the philanthropic conversation that is currently emerging online?


  1. Don says:

    For my part, as a program officer at a family foundation, I prefer to be anonymous because I don’t have the authority to be speaking on behalf of the foundation on many of the issues being discussed in the blogosphere. My position, as it’s structured now, is to execute the wishes articulated by our trustees and as operationalized in our executive director’s policies.

    I still have lots of ideas and thoughts and questions (which we discuss internally all the time), but it seems prudent to me to avoid the risk of being perceived in the community as being a decision-maker at the foundation.

    Just my two-cents.


  2. Sean,
    I think you have to be careful not to mistake personal blogs written by employees as part of their foundations’ formal “communications” programs, Instead these are their own comments, viewpoints, and expressions about foundation work and what they see going on inside their organizations.

    There are some instances of foundations that have offical blogs…like the president of Teagle, Bob Connor And I agree, we need more. But for now, I think we should welcome and encourage those who are willing to share — even anonymously.

    If it were a perfect world, people would be free to speak their minds, talk about whatever issues they think merit attention, and hopefully they could do it without risk. But, as someone I know who blogs has said doing that under your real name can be a career-limiting move.

  3. Trista Harris says:

    I’m the author of the New Voices of Philanthropy blog and am so excited that you have featured it on your blog. I haven’t listed the name of my foundation because I think there is a distinct difference between my opinions on generational issues in philanthropy and portraying my opinions on those issues as my foundation’s stance on those issues. I think it is too easy for Program Officer’s to blur the line between the foundation’s interests and their own interests and I don’t want to slip down that slope.

    I enjoy reading your opinions ion the quickly changing field of philanthropy.

  4. M says:


    Thank you for noticing my blog! I am the author of “Inside Foundations.”

    Back in the days when I was a fundraiser I made the mistake of mixing my work into my personal blogging. I was not disparaging my employer or anything like that. Just having *my* name and *my* views associated with *their* name simply because I worked for them (which was written in my profile) got me in trouble. Luckily just a smack on the hand and a request to remove their name from my profile, not anything worse. I learned my lesson and do not want to endanger my career like that again.

    I’d love to sign my name to my writing, and I am proud of who I work for, but I am not sure they would see it that way, especially since I haven’t even been here a year yet.

    I think the foundation world is too conservative in their views on technology, on how transparent they should be, on how much they should engage with the world at large and their grantees, and maybe a bit too elitist to fully participate in the blogosphere.

    My organization is going through some changes so I hope one day to be able to be myself online, not just “M'”.

    I am heading to my first CoF conference this weekend and made sure to add the “Foundations and the Morphing Media” session to the list of things to attend. I really want to hear the views of blogging amongst the foundation world. Maybe it will sway my decision to remain nameless.

  5. M, I’ll be live blogging the conference and will be attending the session you mention. If you run across me and want to introduce yourself it would be fun to meet and I’ll respect your anonymity.

  6. M says:

    Thanks Sean, I’ll keep an eye out for you.

  7. Ahhh, the elusive M. If we want to meet her, we need to show up at the workshop! 🙂

    I totally respect your decision re remaining anonymous. Of course, it is great if one is able to divulge identity but in many cases it is not.

    In my cases, I am not at risk for being turfed out of my role as I am also a family member of the founder. Thus, I can afford to be transparent in many ways that an employee can not.

  8. Sean … thanks for encouraging me to get in the discussion. I’ve had a crazy week due to our innovation awards and all that goes along with that. See my blog for the news release that gives a few details. Will get back in the game soon.

    I still have a huge printout from Holden’s blog that I have read, but that still remains to be commented on.