In the business world, due diligence is a crucial process that, at the very best, can maximize impact or profit and, at the very least, will limit risk. It is no less important in the philanthropy sector, though each organization may prioritize steps according to its own values. To learn more about how one innovative grantmaker approaches it, we asked Bill Somerville, Founder and President of The Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, about what due diligence means to him.
The foundation focuses on local initiatives in the Bay Area, particularly in the areas of public education improvement and resources for at-risk youth. Those who know or work with Philanthropic Ventures are familiar with Bill’s grassroots method, and it clearly surfaces in his thinking about due diligence:
Due diligence is finding outstanding people doing important work.
Due diligence is knowing the community.
Due diligence is exercising trust in others.
Due diligence requires viewing grant applicants as colleagues, thus democratizing the giving process.
Due diligence requires the willingness to venture and take risks, like being willing to fund non-501(c)(3) programs.
And finally, proper due diligence will get funds to people when they need it most.
Bill Somerville is founder and president of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. PVF was founded in 1991 to try new approaches to creative grantmaking and to maximize the impact of the philanthropic dollar. Under Bill’s leadership, PVF has invested over $87 million in outstanding projects and grassroots organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area and worldwide. Bill is the author (with Fred Setterberg) of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker, a guide to decisive, hands-on grantmaking.