I know, I know, I've heard the old trope - "You've seen one foundation, you've seen one foundation." But that's not really true.
- If you've seen one foundation with 3+ staff, chances are they have an executive director, a program officer, and an admin person.
- If you've seen a foundation with more t10+ staff, they have an executive with an admin, 5 program people, 1 grants manager, and either 1 finance person and 1 communications person or 2 finance people.
- If you've seen a foundation with 25+ staff, they have E.D. + asst+ 2 VPs (one of evaluation) + 1 asst; 5 program officers and 5 program assistants, 3 grant mgrs and assts, 3 finance and assts; 2 communications people; 2 IT people.
- If you've seen a foundation with 50+ staff you've been in one of the few foundations at that number. Take the example above and add proportional VPs, assts, program officers. They'll have an HR department, too.
As organizational structures go foundations aren't very creative - they actually look a lot alike. Which may be because, as someone once suggested to me, the model works. (Raise eyebrows here). I tend to think it has less to do with results than with institutional isomorphism. I find the inherent organizational similarities between foundations regardless of size, age, or mission to be odd.
Which is why I loved this post about orchestras. If ever there was a body that we would assume took a single form it is the classical music orchestra. X number of strings, Y number of woodwinds, Z for the percussion section. Arrange it in a seating hierarchy that hasn't changed much in 300 years. Put someone in tails, give 'em a baton, a score and a podium - voila!
Not anymore. In one of the examples, the Hamburg Philharmonic put its 100 players in 50 different locations around the city. Connected them with audio/visual monitors. And they played - conducted from atop the city's highest church.
In another example individual musicians from all over the world auditioned independently and online to be part of a YouTube symphony concert at Carnegie Hall.
Will these forms create great new music? Maybe. Maybe not.
But if ever there was a "scripted" form it is the classical orchestra.* So to be creative with that form is to really step outside the everyday and ask Why? Why do we play this way? Sit in this order? Select our colleagues in this way? And what if we tried it a different way? What might we learn? What might we do differently, how will the music sound?
To my mind, the experimenters in these orchestras were all asking "What can we create if we reorganize how we do the creating?" And that is a question worthy of philanthropic consideration.
*Hamburg even arranged its musicians around the city in the same "shape" that they would have been had they been in a hall - see the picture up top - an orchestra superimposed on a city.