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Evaluating a Voter Outreach Initiative

This article describes an initiative designed to increase voting rates among low-income and ethnic groups in southern and central California communities. A rigorous evaluation demonstrated that participation rates could be increased by up to 10% among these groups. Using local, well-trained canvassers and making contact during the four weeks preceding the election were some of the more effective practices.





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Expanding Organizational Advocacy Capacity: Reflections From the Field

Organizational advocacy capacity is an increasingly important area of inquiry, raising questions about the opportunities (and limits) for achieving and sustaining policy change. The California Endowment implemented the Clinic Consortia Policy and Advocacy Program to expand grantee advocacy capacity to support the policy and operational needs of California’s community clinics. Funders of advocacy and policy change initiatives are encouraged to consider the resources needed to build and sustain advocacy capacity, including grantee technical expertise, partnerships with stakeholders, and time required to expand advocacy capacity.





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Foundation Evaluation Startup: A Pause for Reflection

This article reports on the accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned in creating a new Department of Research and Evaluation at the California HealthCare Foundation. Different tools were developed to address each of three key areas: performance assessment, organizational learning, and program evaluation. These new processes and tools have been well received by both staff and the board, and have become increasingly important as resources become more scarce, making understanding and maximizing the impact of investments even more critical. Fostering a culture of evaluative inquiry in a fast-paced, payout-oriented environment is a significant challenge – program staff often feels pressured to Read more





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Foundation Readiness for Community Transformation: Learning in Real Time

This article describes the internal structures and processes adopted by The Skillman Foundation to support the iterative practice of “learning and doing” in the first phase of a rapidly evolving, ambitious community change enterprise in six Detroit neighborhoods. The foundation invested in its own and its partners’ capacity to learn in real time so that together they could adjust and readjust their strategies in response to initial results and, in doing so, deepen their working relationships and build further capacity for effective implementation. Challenges to supporting this learning culture included increased visibility and pressures to produce results and measurable outcomes, Read more





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Going Deeper: Can Investigative Reporters Add Value to Assessment and Evaluation?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supplemented its standard evaluation approach by engaging professional journalists to elaborate on evaluation findings. The resulting reports are more direct, even critical, than any prior Knight Foundation attempt to evaluate and assess. It produced deeper looks into the intent and outcome of major initiatives, analyzing and addressing flaws in the theories of change underlying initiatives. The goal of reaching external audiences was not achieved.





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Leadership Development in the Social Sector: A Framework for Supporting Strategic Investments

While much of the research on leadership and leadership development has historically studied private sector settings, recent work has begun to build knowledge about leaders in public and community settings. New models of leadership, including collective leadership, are being developed and implemented by foundations. A framework for identifying the level of intervention (individual, team, organization, network, or system) and the level of impact (individual, team, organization, community, or field of policy and practice) is proposed as a tool for more strategic investing in leadership development.





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Learning-Circle Partnerships and the Evaluation of a Boundary-Crossing Leadership Initiative in Health

Leadership development approaches that are focused on individual knowledge and skill development do not suit the leadership needs of low income communities and communities of color in addressing the multiple factors that influence health disparities. Boundary-crossing leadership is rooted in a social justice perspective and seeks to address the isolation and fragmentation faced by those who are working to address systemic inequities. A multicultural approach to evaluation honors different ways of knowing, recognizes that groups have different learning questions, acknowledges and addresses power dynamics that exist between funders and grantees, and ensures that evaluation is culturally relevant and constructive for Read more





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Measuring the Impacts of Advocacy and Community Organizing: Application of a Methodology and Initial Findings

The increasing emphasis by funders on strategic grantmaking and measurable outcomes may be a disincentive to support policy and advocacy work, because of the perception that outcomes can be difficult to assess. A tool for measuring impact can reduce the barriers to funding advocacy and policy work. The tool draws upon the literature on evaluating advocacy and organizing, social capital building efforts, and return on investment approaches to evaluation. The tool was applied in two sites, where funders found it useful to understand advocacy impacts and learn how advocacy can enhance their grantmaking goals.





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Leveraging Social Networks in Direct Services: Are Foundations Doing All They Can?

Social networks are critical to physical and mental health, and they shape how people see themselves and their possible futures. Social networks represent an under-leveraged resource in social services’ efforts to alleviate poverty and other social challenges. Foundations may be unintentionally creating barriers to practice that leverages social networks by incentivizing individually-focused, highly specific services delivered in standardized, replicable ways. “Network-oriented” practice can help craft a new way forward that threads the needle between everything-is-different-for-everyone and everything- is-the-same-for-everyone. By focusing funding on efforts that build and support social networks, foundations can deepen and sustain the impact of their funding.





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Tools to Support Public Policy Grantmaking

This article provides guidance on how foundations can frame, focus, and advance efforts to achieve public policy reforms. Five essential steps for developing public policy strategy are described: choosing the public policy goal, understanding the challenges, identifying influential audiences, determining how far those audiences must move, and deciding how to move them. Two tools developed specifically to support foundations during the strategy development process are presented.





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The Real-Time Evaluation Memo: A Tool for Enabling Evaluative Thinking and Learning in Foundations and Nonprofits

Real-time evaluation memos provide data-based feedback in a timely manner to inform decision making. Memos must be concise and include both data and expert synthesis and interpretation. The foundation must have a learning culture if the memos are to most useful; there must be time to reflect on the content and implications. The balance between data quality and timeliness must be managed and will be dependent on the topic. While useful for program management, these memos do not provide the kind of summative information that board members and other stakeholders may require.





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The Quest for Deeper Learning and Engagement in Advanced High School Courses

GLEF and a research team from the University of Washington worked with Washington’s Bellevue School District to develop and assess the impact of project-based learning on upper-level courses in high school. Research suggests that Advanced Placement (AP) courses may focus too much on accelerated content at the expense of deeper conceptual learning. The number of students taking AP courses has grown, but along with this the number failing has increased. GLEF and the research team tested project-based learning (PBL) to counteract this trend. Results after two years are promising. Students in the PBL-AP courses are performing as well or better Read more





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Proving Foundation Impact on Public Policy Empirically: The Case of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Consumer Choice for Adults With Developmental Disabilities

Foundations that work on national public policy issues face challenges in demonstrating impact. This case study of how the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s initiative to support choice of program provider for developmentally disabled adults uses some advanced statistical techniques to demonstrate the impact of the foundation’s funding. This study suggests that to get the greatest impact on policy change, foundations should consider offering modest competitive grants to governmental departments; spending the funds in regional groupings; and focus on jurisdictions that have demonstrated interest in the policy area by spending their own funds.





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The Potential of Partnerships for Health Advocacy and Policy Change: The Legacy of the Partnership for the Public’s Health Initiative

This article reports on a study of 11 partnerships between public health departments and community organizations that were funded by The California Endowment to support advocacy and organizing to improve health outcomes in the communities. The evaluation examined the sustainability of the partnerships as well as the policy and advocacy work of the organizations. Almost 90 percent of the activities in policy change and community capacity building was sustained, whereas partnership and health department capacity building activities were the least likely to be sustained. The policy change legacies at the community level were strong and included empowerment of community members, Read more





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The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change: Book Review

The Dragonfly Effect identifies a four-step process symbolized by the wings of the dragonfly. The metaphor does a good job of describing how these four major areas must work in tandem to give the lift needed to reach one’s goals: Focus—Identify a concrete goal. What is it that you want to achieve? Grab Attention—Develop a message that attracts an audience and makes them pay attention. Engage—Go beyond advertising and develop a personal connection. Make your audience care enough to incite them to take action. Take Action—Give your audience the tools and resources they need to take action. Be willing to Read more





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The Challenges of Place, Capacity, and Systems Change: The Story of Yes we can!

Key points: Yes we can!, a comprehensive community initiative (CCI) funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, was designed to improve educational and economic outcomes within the foundation’s hometown of Battle Creek, Mich. Since 2002, Yes we can! has supported five core strategies designed to trigger the systems changes needed to reduce educational and economic inequities in Battle Creek. Yes we can! has achieved some important wins to date; for example, more residents are involved, more neighborhoods have stronger neighborhood associations, and more organizations are engaging residents in their decision-making processes. However, the scale of wins remains small, and the Read more







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Voices From the Field III: Lessons and Challenges for Foundations Based on Two Decades of Community-Change Efforts

Voices From the Field III discusses the implications of comprehensive community initiatives (CCI) – both the positive and the negative – for the philanthropic community. This article builds on and expands that discussion, lifting up five themes that are especially important for foundations. The reader is encouraged to refer to the complete book for specific examples of foundation initiatives, bibliographic references, and deeper discussion of a range of issues that can only be touched upon in this article.





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Youth Civic Engagement for Dialogue and Diversity at the Metropolitan Level

This article analyzes Youth Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity, a foundation-funded program designed to increase dialogue, challenge segregation, and create change in metropolitan Detroit. It draws on multilevel evaluation of the program and analyzes some of the lessons learned.









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Good Neighborhoods, Good Schools, and The Skillman Foundation’s Strategy for Place‐based Change

This Foundation-commissioned white paper gives an overview and topline analysis of Good Neighborhoods, Good Schools, and the Skillman Foundation’s strategy for place‐based change. It provides background on the thinking behind the Foundation’s efforts and the context in which they occurred; synthesizes evaluators’’ findings on the successes and challenges that the Foundation encountered in that work between 2006‐2011; suggests opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the second half of the Good Neighborhoods decade; and makes observations about the Foundation’s work that may have implications for the broader field of place‐based change.





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Changemaking: Building Strategic Competence

This article examines The Skillman Foundation’s efforts to add value to its work through “changemaking,” which encompasses roles and practices beyond grantmaking through which a foundation advances its goals – and offers 10 lessons for grantmakers that want to assume a changemaking role.  







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Gender Transformative Giving The Next Phase in Feminist Philanthropy?

Why should donors support gender transformative programming? This report makes the case that support for gender transformative programming is crucial to effective giving. Gender transformative approaches are a low-risk, high-return opportunity to address gender inequality in greater depth and with more comprehensive solutions.





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I Am a Philanthropist

This video was shown at a gathering of diverse donors in Los Angeles in November 2011. Both the gathering and the video open up the idea of who a philanthropist is and the ways that these donors can infuse a spirit of giving into families, neighborhoods, entire communities.





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How Are Foundations Communicating Their Work on Diversity? A Case Study

This report explains how foundations can start using new media sources to communicate diversity and how foundations might benefit from partnerships with other organizations and community members. In the end, we hope to encourage a discussion about best practices and whether such a platform is appropriate, given the challenges that emerge through discussions with the interviewees.





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Best Practices Study: Health Foundations

This report highlights the considered experiences and views of leading health grant makers across the U.S. concerning some of the key insights they have gleaned about what practices advance or impede diversity in areas ranging from governance and management to grant making and contracting.  





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Evaluation With A Diversity Lens: Exploring Its Functions And Utility To Inform Philanthropic Effectiveness

This report reveals practical insights that can help foundations realize greater effectiveness through increasing inclusivity investments. This piece will prove particularly timely and instructive for funders embarking on the practice of evaluation with a diversity lens (EDL). EDL is an approach to program evaluation that emphasizes the importance of incorporating diverse voices (particularly those of intended program beneficiaries) to identify problems and to engage in program design, implementation, and data analysis.





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Advanced Intensive Grantmaking

This course is targeted to philanthropists, foundation staff and trustees, and individual funders with at least five years of experience. It includes an in-depth analysis of the cutting edge issues in the grantmaking field, such as outcome models, impact philanthropy, advocacy, alternative and inter-sector approaches, and more. The curriculum is modified each time based on emerging developments in the field.