A Quick Word With… is our ongoing series in which people from foundations of all sizes and types tell us about themselves, their work and where they draw their inspiration. This installment features Stefan Lanfer, Knowledge Officer, Barr Foundation
Last big improvement to your website?
We launched a new site in 2011, which took Barr to a new level of transparency and clarity about our work. It also gave us new ways to feature grantees.
An interesting communications project you’re working on?
One of Barr’s major focus areas is climate change. Even though this is a global challenge, Barr is focused on Boston and Massachusetts. We believe what happens locally can push the national conversation. So, we are starting conversations about what it would take to raise the national media profile of the local work.
Last nonfiction book you read? The take-away?
Half the Sky. The takeaway? That the world is a brutal, exploitative, limiting place for far too many women. Investments in setting that right have about the highest ROI imaginable.
“Networks” is a word that comes up frequently on your site. What role do networks play in your communications?
Barr has been focused on networks for a long time and communications not long at all, so the question I am actually trying to answer is what role communications plays in our network efforts. We are increasingly looking at ways to embed communications from the beginning and throughout network efforts.
Are you engaging with social media?
Barr does not have any social media profiles – though I have a few personally. I like Twitter best as a listening tool. I devote 5% of my time at most.
Favorite communications tool more foundation folks should take advantage of?
Do you evaluate communications?
Not yet, though we intend to begin in 2012. I’d love to hear from Communications Network members what methods they use.
When you were 13, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An English teacher.
What aspect of Barr’s work has received greater public attention than any other, and how did that happen?
The Barr Fellowship. It happened because these are amazing people with amazing stories.
Do you do an annual communications plan?
Not a communications plan, per se, but detailed work plans for every program staff. As we pull these together, we flesh out where communications opportunities are in their portfolios, and I make sure I understand any major initiatives where they’ll be depending on me.
Has the foundation ever talked publicly about a failure?
Yes. Our Executive Director recently spoke to a group of Massachusetts education leaders. She started the talk with reflections on a failed strategy. It is on our site here.
Does your foundation blog?
We don’t have a blog, though the “News and Knowledge” area of our site is blog-like in look and feel – short posts, regular updates, organized by topics, etc., all shareable on social media.
Another foundation whose communications work you admire?
The Boston Foundation. They are as aggressive and out front communicating on issues as Barr is not. Even if we don’t always agree with the positions they take, I appreciate the role they play in fueling a robust public discourse.
Most memorable take-away from the Communications Network’s Fall conference in Boston last September?
Swanee Hunt’s challenge to “fall in love with your audience.”
Biggest complaint about how the media covers your issues?
In general, the media hasn’t helped get us past confusion and policy gridlock on climate.
Got a novel deep down inside you?
No, but I have a play.
A Quick Word With… is edited by Michael Hamill Remaley, Vice President of Communications & Public Policy, Philanthropy New York, and a frequent Communications Network contributor.
If you’d like to suggest someone for a future profile, please use this form.