Strategic Retreat January 22 and 23, 2016
The Pathway to 2020
Many of you joined us back in October at our 10th Annual Meeting of Project Redwood, hosted on the day before our 35th Class of 1980 Reunion officially kicked off. At that meeting, the more than 40 partners on hand unanimously agreed on the need to gather again in January to devote a full strategic retreat to the future of Project Redwood (PRW). Forty-six active partners were invited to the retreat and asked to contribute their ideas if they were unable to be there in person. 19 were able to attend and were joined by 5 guests including one member of the Class of ’81. We met in late January in San Francisco at the Metropolitan Club for a day and a half of stimulating strategy sessions, dubbed The Pathway to 2020.
Going into the retreat we faced a daunting challenge: To determine PRW’s direction over the next 5 years while taking into account several key factors, including the evolving career and philanthropic interests of classmates, the desire to scale the program through expansion of our donor base, and the desire to maintain the warm camaraderie built over the past 10 years. After much lively discussion and debate, and over cocktails and delicious meals, the PRW partnership successfully reached consensus on a range of far reaching topics.
Over the course of the session, we worked through four key issues that serve as the foundation for setting our future strategy.
- Annual Grant Making: How should we structure our annual grant review and selection process so we maximize the impact of the monies we distribute each year? We addressed the question of the breadth and scope of grantee projects to consider. Then we looked at how best to support these grantees.
- Non-Financial Support: What type of non-financial support can we provide to grantees? We asked ourselves what is the best way to leverage the deep expertise and capabilities of our partners so our efforts are both productive and gratifying.
- Funding and Growth: Where and how do we sustain our existing efforts and grow into the future? We asked some hard questions about looking beyond our current approach that relies almost entirely on fellow classmates to support our efforts.
- Governance: What is the best structure for Project Redwood; what organizational framework will take best advantage of the willingness of partners to actively lead our efforts and then also ensure that we can apply those talents and our financial resources for greatest impact?
Here are some major program highlights of this intense two day meeting:
Day 1 started with a drill down on our grant application and award process led by Rich Jerdonek and Ernie Ting. A very productive discussion ultimately generated a series of recommendations aimed at maximizing PRW impact by focusing grant making, as follows:
- Focus grants on projects that build “human capital” and help people in poverty to achieve a path to self-sufficiency.
- Provide funding to organizations that can reach a significant number of people with significant impact. Maintain relationships to capture information about lasting impact.
- Pursue a 5-to-7-grant portfolio approach to include new, innovative projects and projects from established organizations if PRW funding is critical to the project.
- Pursue the goal to have at least one US project. Consider measuring U.S. projects against different metrics/criteria.
- Give grants to organizations with budgets generally smaller than $2.5 million in revenue. PRW grants should be“meaningful”.
- Give grants to an organization for no more than four consecutive years. After four years, the organization would have to wait a year to reapply.
- Consider awarding multi-year grants.
- Conduct “up front” conversations with grantees and sponsors to clarify expectations.
The grant making segment was followed by a vigorous discussion led by Bill Westwood on how to maximize our non-financial support to grantees. We concluded that the Project Support Committee should be restructured into two separate committees:
- A Committee of Sponsors who will share experiences and expertise, and work collectively to help each other provide non-financial assistance for their grantees.
- An Evaluation and Impact Committee with responsibility for analyzing grantee reporting requirements (and revising them if necessary), reviewing grantees’ interim and final reports, and documenting the impact of projects and of Project Redwood overall.
Opening Day 2, Phil Jonckheer provided an update on PRW’s donor base and opportunities for funding growth. This led to a discussion on expansion beyond the Class of ’80 and an exploration of ideas about setting goals for notably expanding PRW by 2020. However, there was universal agreement that the passion, dedication and camaraderie built over the last 10 years cannot be lost as we investigate options for growing Project Redwood and increasing its impact on poverty.
The decisions resulting from this discussion included the formation of two new committees to investigate factors that might lead to a larger and more impactful Project Redwood:
- An Expansion Committee will create the Project Redwood “story” necessary to appeal for additional funding, will investigate the possibility of raising “capacity-building” grants from classmates and other sources, and will research the pros and cons of Project Redwood filing for 501(c)3 non-profit certification.
- An Outreach Committee will concentrate on engaging, re-engaging and retaining classmate partners, and will investigate relationships within the Stanford community which can lead to the recruitment of new partners with similar passion for the work of Project Redwood.
The remainder of Day 2 focused on governance, including improving the infrastructure, decision-making, and communications of Project Redwood. The group agreed to recommend the following structural changes:
- The Board of Directors will be reduced in size to 12-15 members over the next years. Members will serve a term of 3 years, with 1/3 of the members rotating off and being replaced each year. This will allow for overlapping and transition, with a repeat option. A nominating process will be determined. Board members will be required to attend 80% of the monthly meetings, to contribute at least $2000 per year, and to bring their experience and commitment to the Board.
- The Board’s focus is both strategy and operations, with goal to become more strategic. Operational Committees will concentrate on operational tasks that implement the Board’s strategic goals. Responsibilities and accountability will be documented through Board and committee job descriptions and goals.
- Board and operational committee meetings will be publicized via a Project Redwood calendar. Board and committees’ agendas, minutes and decisions will be documented. Video and in-person meetings will be conducted when possible, and regional meetings will be considered more often than once a year. The Board and committees will work with the Communications Committee to determine optimum methods of keeping partners, classmates and other audiences informed about Project Redwood.
The meeting ended with a recap of the decisions and recommendations, and a statement of appreciation was extended to all attendees for their participation and their dedication to the future of Project Redwood. Following approval by the current Board of Directors, work has already begun to carry out the steps on Project Redwood’s Pathway to 2020.
In coming weeks, be sure to check out our site for updates on our progress and the start of the 2016 grant cycle.