Culture Can Help Align Values With Actions: Interview with Tom David

I have had the pleasure of knowing Tom David for many years and have always valued his insightful analysis of philanthropy from his nearly 30 years working in and around our field. He has become an important thought partner in Grantmakers for Effective Organizations' work on the role of culture in enabling grantmakers to operate in a way that helps grantees succeed. You can find another post I've written about values and culture here. Below are some insights from his recent paper on philanthropy's cultural source code that will be published shortly by GEO.

Kathleen Enright: What spurred your thinking about the role of culture in philanthropy?

Tom David: In my various roles in foundations and as a consultant, I have observed that while we may devote a lot of energy to discussing and refining strategy, we too often fail to examine the underlying culture of the organization. It has a subtle but profound influence on foundation behavior. In my experience it frequently differentiates the organizations that, by and large, make good decisions in the interest of the communities they serve from those that seem to stumble. For example, foundations that emphasize accountability and rigorous due diligence might accidentally send the signal that they don't trust their grantees which makes grantees less likely to be candid when problems arise.