Philanthropy Ohio announces new vision, mission

Monday, December 10, 2018

As a member of Philanthropy Ohio, I am especially pleased that you are part of our journey, from Donor’s Forum of Ohio, to Ohio Grantmakers Forum to Philanthropy Ohio. We’ve changed and adapted and grown because of you, and I’m delighted to share with you the next part of our journey.

If you attended the 2018 Annual Meeting at Philanthropy Forward ’18, you saw me with a microscope. It was my favorite toy growing up, a much awaited Christmas present, and I used it – played with it – constantly. I looked at dog hair, cat hair, cow hair, people hair, oatmeal, leaves and seeds of all kinds. But my favorite thing to do was to put a drop or two of pond or creek water on a slide and look for amoebas or paramecium. I liked amoebas best because, although they are both unicellular, an amoeba can change shape whereas a paramecium always looks like a footprint.

You see, I discovered one afternoon that I could force a change to the amoeba’s shape by applying pressure or heat to the slide or by placing an object on the slide, forcing the amoeba to move and change shape. Little did I know that what I really was observing was a metaphor for organizational culture. It’s not a huge leap from organism to organization – the Latin root for both words is organum, meaning system or structure.

But the metaphor stands that an organization can change with significant internal and/or external pressure much like amoebas, and that in order to survive, sometimes an organization – organism – must create a mechanism for change.

Our mechanism for change began in January 2018 in the form of a strategic planning process, which I hoped would yield a new strategic framework for Philanthropy Ohio. This strategic planning process morphed into a journey that allowed us to microscopically examine our organization. It’s been nearly a year of conducting and reviewing research that has enabled us to design a framework that uses our strengths to amplify our abilities to best serve our members.

For months, we asked questions and listened intently. We talked to dozens of people in one-on-one interviews, received survey responses from hundreds more and conducted two regional focus groups. We were trying to determine the shape and structure of our organization, and we wanted to know what people thought about us and how we could better serve our members. In essence, what shape did our amoeba need to be to thrive in today’s environment? Ultimately our question changed from “How can we best serve our members?” to “How can we best lead and equip our members?”

Much of the landscape analysis suggested that philanthropy as a field is changing – from donor demographics, to giving and granting patterns, to leadership transitions, to a new sense of urgency in solving societal problems. So with new challenges and greater needs facing grantmakers, answering this question – how can we best lead and equip our members – is critical.

The first thing our planning committee, our board and staff suggested – after extensive research and examination of landscape trends – was to refocus our vision and mission. A vision statement outlines what we want the future to look like and our mission statement describes what we want to do now. I’m quite pleased to share with you the outcome of that process – a new vision, mission, values statements and strategies.

  • The new vision for Philanthropy Ohio for what we want the future to look like: A just and vibrant Ohio through impactful philanthropy.
  • This led us to the creation of a more focused mission statement that better describes our work: To lead and equip Ohio philanthropy to be effective, powerful change agents in our communities.
  • Our newly refined value statements, which guide our work, culture and beliefs are: learning, equity, leadership, integrity, engagement, collaboration, innovation, purpose and voice.

From the many interviews with state and national leaders to the regional focus groups as well as the surveys conducted, our board and staff grappled with how we will best meet the call to equip and lead in the coming years. The answer came in the form of four pillars that support the framework of our mission, vision and values. Undergirding this framework is the commitment to practice organizational excellence as we build and sustain capacity to fulfill our mission.

Our four pillars are:

  • Advocating: supporting policies to strengthen the charitable sector, improve local communities and lift up the ultimate beneficiaries of philanthropic resources.
  • Educating: sharing the wisdom from local experts, national thought leaders and peers through programs and knowledge resources that improve philanthropic practices.
  • Convening: engaging people in meaningful conversations, providing space for learning from each other, collaborating and strengthening relationships in order to amplify impact.
  • Advancing diversity, equity and inclusion: committing to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in Ohio’s philanthropic sector and in our organization, applying an equity lens to all our work in advocating, educating and convening as well as to our internal operations.

But realistically, advancing DEI is more than a pillar, it is the lens by which we examine and execute our work. Convening, advocating and educating are all conducted using the diversity, equity and inclusion lens. It’s how we live our mission and values and strive for a just and vibrant Ohio through impactful philanthropy.

This is our strategic framework. It’s not a strategic rule and I imagine that given internal and external forces, we may find the need to adapt over the next three years. But the North Star is our vision, and our mission is our work.

I was asked recently what I learned on this strategic journey. I thought about the microscope we’ve been using to examine our work and the wider lens of research and I think it’s this: Strategic plans often tell organizations what to do, how to do it and how to measure the work.  Our strategic planning process led us in a different direction. Instead of describing the work, this process showed us who we want to be.

Our journey forward is about understanding the changing landscape, bringing the best thought leaders and practices to inform all of our work and amplifying our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. I’m so glad you are on the journey with us.

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

President & CEO

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