A Balancing Act between Commitment and Resources

New models of philanthropy, diminishing returns and increasing demands for transparency – the world of foundations has become more complex. The challenges are manifold: How do we lead our foundation successfully into the future? What competencies are required the foundation board? Where do we set our priorities in terms of content? How do we sharpen our profile and how do we move from passive to active communication? How do we organize the foundation management without building up an expensive bureaucracy?

A foundation should be managed as professionally as a company. This also applies to smaller foundations. With the difference that there are usually fewer human and financial resources available. Not a very attractive task – costly and unrewarding – one might think. But from a different point of view, this is precisely what makes the work for a smaller foundation interesting. Because smaller foundations often offer more room for interpretation in strategic and operational management. They are agile and can – especially in a consortium – react quickly to new challenges or tackle issues together.

Some insights as to why an engagement for smaller foundations is enriching:

Interdisciplinary Work and Selective Digitalization Bring Everyone Forward

Managing a small foundation is quite challenging. The range of tasks is broad and the foundation council and the executive board are also confronted with questions from other disciplines. Everyone has to contribute their knowledge and can thus grow with the foundation's topics at the same time. Administration and processes can be simplified with the use of digital solutions that meet the needs of the foundation. This makes the cooperation geographically independent and saves costs.

A Solid Network Creates Synergies

Building and maintaining a high-quality network are important tasks for the foundation board and management. After all, a smaller foundation does not have a specialist or a separate department for each task. This is where the network comes into play. Active communication within this network also makes it possible to find foundations with the same goals and to tackle topics or projects jointly. Involvement in an association can also be helpful.

A Clear Framework Simplifies Implementation

The statutory purpose of a foundation is often broadly defined. A meaningful profile with goals, messages and a clear funding strategy creates a common self-conception. There is still great potential with regard to this aspect, especially for smaller foundations. Once the strategic guidelines have been set, it becomes much easier to implement the foundation's purpose and creates the framework for wise decisions and efficient use of the foundation's assets.


About the Author

Renate Schnyder Plattner Essennca / Stiftungsratsmandat.com

Renate Schnyder Plattner

Renate Schnyder Plattner is a communications expert with a long track record working in Swiss companies and the non-profit sector. She advises companies and organisations in strategic communication, marketing and brand management. She also supports foundations in organising their administrative processes.