Getting to Know You Series: Meet Rusty Stahl of Fund the People

Tell us a bit about your professional background, and what led you to Fund the People.

Rusty Stahl (RS): I came into the field through a year-long fellowship at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. Ever since that experience, I’ve been thinking about how the sector could do a better job of increasing awareness and recruitment of diverse young Americans into nonprofit careers.

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Face Plants: Who Knows More?

I received an excellent lesson in humility a few years ago. 

I was excited when a colleague told me about her idea for a grant program to help retiring baby boomer executive directors of nonprofits transition out of their roles and into consulting positions at other nonprofits. I thought this was genius.

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Carrie AveryComment
Getting to Know You Series: Meet the Co-Executive Directors of Leadership Learning Community

We were pleased to sit down with Deborah Meehan and Ericka Stallings, Co-Executive Directors of our grantee partner Leadership Learning Community (LLC). Deborah founded LLC 20 years ago, and Ericka just joined her at the helm earlier this year. Together they bring thought-provoking perspectives on leadership development, networks, and embracing an evolving style of management within their own organization. The interview has been edited and condensed. 

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Network Leadership: Launching Sterling Network NYC

About a year and a half ago the Foundation began a journey to explore the answer to an intriguing question: What happens when you bring together a group of action-oriented systems leaders from multiple sectors, each of whom has an ability to influence and move resources, build their trust and capacity to work across difference, and provide space and support for them to think of powerful ways to collaborate to improve economic mobility at the intersection of racial equity?

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Face Plants: The Grant Administration Struggle is Real

When North Star Fund started 40 years ago, our founders wanted to shift power dynamics in philanthropy. They didn’t want to continue the tradition of wealthy white folks making grantmaking decisions. Our grantmaking decisions are made by a group of volunteer grantmakers who are working on the front lines in the communities where we fund – organizers and activists that understand the day-to-day realities our grantees are facing.

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Face Plants: Survey Says…The Survey Isn’t Working Out

I have an aversion to the phrase “best practice,” because it connotes that there is an optimal way to do something. It’s as if a lab has tested all the possibilities and has anointed a winner. It discourages thinking in different ways. And, in reality, these ideas are only ‘best’ until something better comes along.

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Philip LiComment
Face Plants: Our Beautiful Messes

In my almost-30 years as a youth worker, program director, consultant, board member, executive director, and now as a funder, I have always had a special interest in ‘worst practices.’ In professional settings, I have long been willing to share my successes – or ‘best practices’ – with colleagues.

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Lisa Pilar CowanComment
Exploring the Pillars of Trust-Based Philanthropy: Closing Thoughts on our Series

My colleague Lisa Cowan revels in drawing on “worst practices” as a way for us to learn and improve the ways in which we work at the Foundation, from operations and administration to grantmaking. So we have been quite excited on more than one occasion when we have we happened upon funder “fail fests,” where our colleagues promise to describe mistakes and consequences.

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Exploring the Pillars of Trust-Based Philanthropy: Transparent and Responsive Communication

I was at an engaging talk this past weekend that reminded me why effective communication must be at the core of our work at the foundation. The talk topic was ‘How to use behavioral economics to shape food policy and make choices of what to put in our bodies.’  Some of the ideas that were discussed are common here in New York City: taxing sugar-laden beverages and providing calorie information on menus. But one research study grabbed my attention (I know, it may not sound that exciting, but stick with me here!).

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Exploring the Pillars of Trust-Based Philanthropy: Provide Unrestricted, Multi-Year Funding

Last weekend I took a yoga class near my home in Brooklyn. The fit and kind young yoga instructor started the class by interpreting some of the dharma. Now to be honest, I usually zone out during this part–I have a hard time taking ancient wisdom from 23-year-olds. But this time the message permeated a bit as the instructor talked about the Bhagavadgita, the Hindu text which speaks about giving: 

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Exploring the Pillars of Trust-Based Philanthropy: Support Beyond the Check

Two weeks ago, we invited the program directors from our New York City grantee partner organizations to join us on a retreat. Our plan is to do this annually, so that our partners get to know each other’s programs and build community. This part of our work falls under the Trust-Based Philanthropy principle of providing “Support Beyond the Check.” We also think of thought partnership, support around leadership transition, introductions to potential funders or allies, and lending our offices for off-site meetings as ways we support grantee partners beyond the check – some of them more helpful than others. 

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Exploring the Pillars of Trust-Based Philanthropy: Solicit and Act on Feedback

Two year ago, we launched a new grantmaking area here at Robert Sterling Clark—we now fund network and leadership development programs. As we developed this new grantmaking area, we also implemented a new way to evaluate our grantmaking. We asked each of our grantee partners to complete a self-assessment tool to help us understand the progress they were making with our support.

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