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About Bill Somerville. Bill Somerville.

Explore the new agenda

Trivia About Grassroots Philan Endless paperwork, bureaucracy, and beleaguered foundation heads bog down many bold new ventures. The cowboy approach advocated by Bill Somerville encourages philanthropists to actively engage with the community, meet people who are doing extraordinary things, and fund those in need quickly with a minimum of process and paperwork.

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Somerville s style is straightforward, urgent, emphatic, and persuasive. He encourages foundations to take calculated risks and to fund ideas for actual change, rather than for fact-finding reports that exhaustively sum up what s wrong with the world. This is an illuminating book for those in the foundation and nonprofit worlds alike. With an unprecedented transfer of generational wealth expected over the next half-century, it is also a call to the upcoming generation of philanthropists to step up and use their wealth to ensure that real change happens quickly and creatively.

Review: Grassroots Philanthropy

Bill Somerville is a nationally recognized expert on creative grantmaking. He has consulted at over community foundations in the United States, Canada, and the U. In he founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, which specializes in responsive approaches to grantmaking, such as paperless discretionary grants and grants with a forty-eight-hour turnaround. Fred Setterberg is the coauthor of several books about the nonprofit sector and philanthropy, including Grantmaking Basics, with Colburn Wilbur and Barbara Kibbe, and Beyond Profit, with Kary Schulman.

Risk and reward in philanthropy

Someone who can see the great ideas when others just see chaos or problems; someone who listens and reaches down to the grass roots to discover new trends, new ideas. It is difficult to imagine how we could accomplish much of our grantmaking, both regionally and internationally, without his assistance. Thomas C. Convert currency.

Add to Basket. He gives advice on how to find and back effective local leaders, move quickly to seize opportunities, embrace risk, focus on solutions rather than problems, and initiate and fund new projects.


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Somerville also repeatedly cautions that arrogance and isolation can develop in foundations that obsess about paper, evaluation, and research. These activities, he argues, may stifle creativity, delay response time, consume charitable resources, and prohibit staff from getting out into the community. True enough that any foundation should consider these observations. Yet the book leaves on the table an array of questions that will surely spark debate, especially among program staff.

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For one, most PVF grants have been small; timely and creative yes, but small. Then again, is lasting impact even the point of such small grants? But simply employing a strategy of small, rifleshot grants may serve mainly to eclipse more important activities needed to solve these problems: advocacy, collaboration, and working on public policy for social change, all of which invariably require sustained and collaborative commitment.

A second issue raised by the book: whether, and how, good ideas and good leaders can regularly be leveraged to create long-term institutional solutions. The project involved seven funders.