March 11, 2010

Big Thinking is Two Years Old!

Big Thinking is now two years old and 100 posts strong. I began this blog with a commitment to write once a week but with permission to skip a week when the writing felt forced and to write more often when the ideas were flowing. My goal was to share the unique perspective that I have on the growing field of grassroots grantmaking as the Executive Director of the network of innovative place-based funders who are investing directly in people and groups who work so close to the ground that they aren't picked up by the normal grantmaking radar. I was hoping that what I have to share would be at least interesting - hopefully useful.

After two years, here's what has surprised me, encouraged me, and kept me going:

Surprised that.....

  • writing for "Big Thinking" has been about discovery. Almost every time I sit down to write, I discover something about the possibilities and challenges associated with thinking big about small grants - an insight, a theme, a trend, a common stumbling block.
  • the time I spend working on the blog is some of my favorite time - often the only time in my week that I can dedicate to reflecting about the work that I'm doing. For this reason alone, if I was the only "Big Thinking" reader, I would keep blogging.
  • the posts that have challenged conventional thinking on volunteerism have been the posts that have hit some nerves. I did not realize how emotionally invested we are in the concept of "help those less fortunate" type of volunteerism or how difficult it might be to open up that concept to make room for people who engaged in "active citizen" type volunteerism.

  • so many of my posts have been about the funder side of the grantmaking equation - the overly big processes and inflated sense of risk that gets in the way of big thinking about small grants.

  • so few of my posts have been about problems that occur on the grantee side of the grantmaking equation. That's because I so rarely hear about the things that funders are initially worried about (usually something about how emerging groups can manage money). Perhaps that's why I write about the funder side of the equation so much.

Encouraged by.....

  • the people who have found this blog and joined the conversation - and the different ways that "joining the conversation" has showed up. I had hoped that people would post comments or email me directly - and that's happened. I've been delighted to learn that people are using my posts as fodder for discussion at board and grantmaking committee meetings, and including posts as features in their newsletters. Amazing and wonderful.

  • the increase in readers week to week. Still a way to go to get where I want to be (and you can help me get there by sharing this blog with colleagues), but steady progress that is truly encouraging. Thank you!

Keeping me going by.....

  • having a platform to easily spot and share the helpful images that my colleagues use to explain the nuances of grassroots grantmaking and active citizenship. Remember David Derbyshire's "face-based grantmaking", Mike Blockstein's "community is a verb", Tom Dewar's "small tables prepare us for big tables" and concept of "patient money"?
  • moments when I can jump into a deeper conversation with a colleague because we've been on a journey together via this blog.
  • the very tangible reminder that this growing blog community provides that there is a growing community of people out there who think big about small grants and want grassroots grantmaking to be more in the philanthropic mainstream.

This is a wrap for Year 2. Ready to go for Year 3!

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