Your Guide to Philanthropy’s Reflective Practices

Learn about four reflective practices used by your colleagues in philanthropy.



What Reflective Practice Is (and Isn’t)

Think of reflective practices as mental bridges you build to help observe, makes sense of and traverse challenging situations. Read more about this working definition and bust myths about the relationship between reflection and action.


Why Building Reflective Practice in Philanthropy Matters

What’s your hardy perennial dilemma at work? Read why practitioners value reflective practices for navigating their dilemmas. Review the case for making reflective practice a required discipline in philanthropy.


Discover Your Role

What roles are most important to your work? How do you construct them and bring your unique talents to the role? How do you manage your personal challenges in the role? Borrow a few techniques from fellow practitioners described in this brief.


Practice Presence

How do you process your internal reactions and signals before you jump to help others? Learn techniques from philanthropy practitioners that have helped create an environment for learning on both individual and systems levels.


Let the Right Brain In

What happens when you reach an impasse in dialogues? Sometimes words are an “aide-de-camp” to sustain attention to what’s hard to talk about with others. Read about the use of images, metaphors, stories and poems in philanthropy.


Enlist Peers

Looking for a more participatory way to get advice on dilemmas at work? This practice takes conversations around the “water cooler” to their next level. Read about a technique for getting and sharing advice that can be a game changer for everyone involved.


Pretty Good Tools: Talking About Evolutions

Your organization’s strategy is evolving every day. Use this reflective practice tool to encourage an explicit conversation about where you are now and want to go.  It works with staff, board and other stakeholders and can even be used to track your personal strategy.


Use Poetry as a Reflective Practice Prompt

Foundation leaders and team members share poems and how they use them to encourage sense-making and deeper dives into difficult situations.


Asking Open and Honest Questions

By asking open and honest questions, you can help unearth new insights, deepen relationships, and ultimately achieve greater impact in your work.


Understanding Role

By more thoroughly understanding role, you can better inventory what skills and strengths you uniquely bring to any situation to allow yourself to better manage your best self within a given context.


Third Objects

This audience-friendly facilitation tool inspires associative thinking and disrupts conditioned patterns of thoughts to better access creative conversations and solutions.


Five Easy Reflective Practices

This short list of simple exercises, which includes an activity on what’s “beneath the waterline,” helps to slow down mental processes to allow new information and possibilities to emerge.


Active Listening

Structured tips on how to listen well and a pair-sharing exercise in reciprocity or “constructivist listening.”