The LearnPhilanthropy Bookshelf includes books, articles, and reports suggested by practicing grantmakers and those committed to effective philanthropy. You can sort across several categories:


  • BOOKS ON PHILANTHROPY: Specific to the field, including history, strategy, giving approaches, and a general introduction to philanthropy.
  • BOOKS ON MANAGEMENT, LEADERSHIP, AND ORGANIZATION: Helpful to those in the field, but not specifically about philanthropy. These offer practical information on managing, leading, and learning for both individuals and organizations.
  • SEMINAL ARTICLES: Articles repeatedly mentioned as “must reads” for anyone engaged in the field of philanthropy.
  • FREQUENTLY MENTIONED MONOGRAPHS AND REPORTS: The most widely-used reports produced by a variety of organizations, think tanks, and other experts.
  • RECOMMENDED SUBSCRIPTIONS: Publications that consistently produce articles helpful to grantmakers.

We received suggestions from a number of different sources: crowdsourcing through our newsletter and blog, requests to our content partners, and influential people and organizations in the field of philanthropy. Do you have a suggestion for the bookshelf or a comment about what is on the list?

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Cover Image Title Description Author(s) Year Published Link Category
Project Streamline: Drowning in Paperwork

GMN and a cohort of partners set out to answer two questions: 1.) Are nonprofits drowning in paperwork and distracted from purpose as a result of grantmakers’ application and reporting requirements? 2.) Do the same practices that grantmakers use to increase effectiveness end up over-burdening both grantmakers and grantseekers—and diminishing their effectiveness?

The initial report on these questions, Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted From Purpose, examined grantmakers application and reporting practices and their impact on grantmakers and grantseekers.  This report formed the basis for Project Streamline and continues to be used by grantmakers to better understand the flaws in the current system, barriers to change, and principles that grantmakers can adopt to improve their practices.

Grants Managers Network 2009 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Philanthropy and Social Investing Blueprint 2012

The must-read annual industry forecast for philanthropy and social investing.

Lucy Bernholz 2011 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
When Words Fail: How the Public Interest Becomes Neither Public Nor Interesting

Fans of Tony Proscio’s writing on jargon will enjoy his three book-length essays that were originally published by The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation: In Other Words, Bad Words for Good, and When Words Fail, can now be read online as e-books.


Tony Proscio 2005 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
The Project on Civic Reflection

The Center for Civic Reflection is a national leader in dialogue and reflection. We use readings, images and videos to engage people in deep, productive conversation about issues that impact their communities and work in the world -- a practice that we call civic reflection. We have trained more than 7,000 people to facilitate these discussions in their organizations and communities, and led over 20,000 people in public, community, and workplace dialogues. Recommended Subscriptions
Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn't Advance Social Progress

Steven Goldberg explores the debilitating financial constraints that prevent so many nonprofit organizations from producing substantially greater social impact, and sheds new light on how the nonprofit capital market should be structured to best allocate funds in support of high-performing organizations that deserve additional resources to achieve optimal scale.

Steven H. Goldberg 2009 Books on Philanthropy
Challenges for Nonprofits and Philanthropy: The Courage to Change

The book incorporates tributes to many of the leading lights in late-twentieth-century American philanthropy, including John Gardner, Paul Ylvisaker, John Filer, and David Hunter, men Eisenberg knew well. Every nonprofit leader, donor, grant maker, anyone involved with poverty-fighting organizations as well as faculty members and researchers who study nonprofit organizations will need this collection of writings by of one of the nation's most prominent leaders in the nonprofit world.

Pablo Eisenberg (author), Stacy Palmer (editor) 2004 Books on Philanthropy
Conscience and Community: The Legacy of Paul Ylvisaker

Paul Ylvisaker has been described as the heart and soul of organized philanthropy. He made a profound contribution to the American people through his service in philanthropy and public service. Conscience and Community: The Legacy of Paul Ylvisaker is a collection of his essays, speeches, and articles on philanthropy, education, urban issues, and community, covering the early 1960s to shortly before his death in March 1992. They represent a chronology of the times documenting the War on Poverty, the environmental movement, education reform, and the role of America's philanthropic sector, to name just a few. But more important, they show the vision and timelessness of Paul Ylvisaker's writings-a tribute to an extraordinary man.

Virginia M. Esposito (editor) 1999 Books on Philanthropy
Disrupting Philanthropy

Examines the immediate and longer-term implications of networked digital technologies for philanthropy (and) looks at how information networks have affected five common philanthropic practices: setting goals and formulating strategy, building social capital, measuring progress, measuring outcomes and impact, and accounting for the work.

Lucy Bernholz, Edward Skloot, & Barry Varela 2010 Books on Philanthropy
Do More than Give

Provides a blueprint for individuals, philanthropists, and foundation leaders to increase their impact. Based on Forces for Good, this groundbreaking book demonstrates how the six practices of high-impact nonprofits apply to donors aiming to advance social causes. Rather than focus on the mechanics of effective grantmaking, reporting, or evaluation, this book instead proposes that donors can become proactive catalysts for change by rising to meet the challenges of our increasingly interdependent world. Key principles include: going beyond check writing/traditional volunteering; advocating for change; leveraging business; forging peer networks; empowering individuals; leading adaptively; and developing learning organizations.

Leslie R. Crutchfield, John V. Kania, Mark R. Kramer 2011 Books on Philanthropy
Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits

An innovative guide to how great nonprofits achieve extraordinary social impact. What makes great nonprofits great? Authors Crutchfield and McLeod Grant searched for the answer over several years, employing a rigorous research methodology which derived from books on for-profits like Built to Last. They studied 12 nonprofits that have achieved extraordinary levels of impact—from Habitat for Humanity to the Heritage Foundation—and distilled six counterintuitive practices that these organizations use to change the world. This book has lessons for all readers interested in creating significant social change, including nonprofit managers, donors and volunteers.

Leslie R. Crutchfield, Heather McLeod Grant 2008 Books on Philanthropy
Foundations and Public Policy - the Mask of Pluralism

In this path breaking study of foundation influence, author Joan Roelofs produces a comprehensive picture of philanthropy's critical role in society. She shows how a vast number of policy innovations have arisen from the most important foundations, lessening the destructive impact of global "marketization." Conversely, groups and movements that might challenge the status quo are nudged into line with grants and technical assistance, and foundations also have considerable power to shape such things as public opinion, higher education, and elite ideology. The cumulative effect is that foundations, despite their progressive goals, have a depoliticizing effect, one that preserves the hegemony of neoliberal institutions.

Joan Roelofs 2003 Books on Philanthropy
Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power

Inderjeet Parmar reveals the complex interrelations, shared mindsets, and collaborative efforts of influential public and private organizations in the building of American hegemony. Focusing on the involvement of the Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie foundations in U.S. foreign affairs, Parmar traces the transformation of America from an "isolationist" nation into the world's only superpower, all in the name of benevolent stewardship.

Inderjeet Paramar 2012 Books on Philanthropy
Generations of Giving: Leadership and Continuity in Family Foundations

Using detailed and comprehensive analysis, Generations of Giving: Leadership and Continuity in Family Foundations examines continuity and leadership over time within family foundations. Based upon a study of foundations in the United States and Canada that have survived through at least two generations, the authors ask probing questions, including: Why were the foundations started? What did they look like at the beginning? How did the families of the founders come to be involved? And how did they organize themselves to do their work from year to year, decade to decade? Although the foundations in the study are quite diverse in their goals and management, they have all had to confront and survive a common set of challenges. At the core of this volume is the study of two aspects of philanthropy: funding and volunteers - each essential to the survival of a foundation. A co-publication with the National Center for Family Philanthropy.

Kelin E. Gersick 2004 Books on Philanthropy
Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results

In the first half of the twenty-first century, giving to family and community foundations alone will be ten times in today's dollars what it was throughout the entire twentieth century. Yet despite tremendous innovation in the social sector, philanthropy's natural state is under-performance. Not since Andrew Carnegie wrote The Gospel of Wealth has a book been written that provides practical guidance for donors to get the most impact from their giving.

Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman 2011 Books on Philanthropy
Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World

Giving 2.0 is the ultimate resource for anyone navigating the seemingly infinite ways one can give. The future of philanthropy is far more than just writing a check, and Giving 2.0 shows how individuals of every age and income level can harness the power of technology, collaboration, innovation, advocacy, and social entrepreneurship to take their giving to the next level and beyond.

Laura Arrilla-Andreessen 2012 Books on Philanthropy
Giving Well, Doing Good: Readings for Thoughtful Philanthropists

This anthology explores the enterprise of philanthropy—assumptions, aspirations, and achievements. It brings together key texts that can provide guidance to current and prospective donors, trustees and professional staff of foundations, and leaders of nonprofit organizations.

Amy A. Kass (editor) 2008 Books on Philanthropy
Golden Donors: A New Anatomy of the Great Foundations

The world of the golden donors-the rich and influential philanthropic foundations-is quite likely the least known and yet most pervasive of all the invisible money and power networks in America. Nielsen explores the 36 largest of the 22,000 currently active foundations. He takes the reader inside each of the giants to analyze its people, policies, and performance.

Waldemar Nielsen 2001 Books on Philanthropy
Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmakers

Set aside the mountains of paper that characterize conventional philanthropy and focus instead on forging enduring partnerships with outstanding individuals. Dare to change the world in imaginative ways that prove deeply satisfying, exciting, and (dare we say it?) fun. Based on four decades of experience as a foundation executive, Bill Somerville's Grassroots Philanthropy is an unorthodox guide to decisive, hands-on grantmaking.

Bill Somerville and Fred Setterburg 2008 Books on Philanthropy
Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World

A practical guide for realizing the true potential of social media -- not for marketing, but for leadership.

Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant 2011 Books on Philanthropy
Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference

This is the first book to chart the catalytic path of this new industry, explaining how it is and can be a positive disruptive force. It shows how impact investing is a transformational vehicle for delivering "blended value" throughout the investment spectrum, giving a single name to a set of activities previously siloed in enclaves, revealing how they are linked within what is becoming a new field of investing.

Antony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson 2011 Books on Philanthropy
Just Another Emperor? The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism

The movement in the nonprofit world to make charities more like businesses and create new markets for goods and services that benefit society has been nicknamed "philanthrocapitalism." There is no doubt that this is an important phenomenon. Very large sums of money have been generated for philanthropy, particularly in the finance and IT industries. Michael Edwards argues that despite its great potential, this movement is oversold in both its proposed means and its promised ends because it sees business methods as the answer to social problems, but offers little rigorous evidence or analysis to support this claim, and ignores strong evidence pointing in the opposite direction.

Michael Edwards 2008 Books on Philanthropy
Just Money: A Critique of Contemporary American Philanthropy

A mesmerizing text. The authors address vital issues of accountability, transparency, ethics and content. As we enter an even more complicated period of scrutiny for the philanthropic community, all of us can be grateful for the creative thinking and clear writing that permeates this essential volume." -Barry Munitz, President and CEO, J. Paul Getty Trust

H. Peter Karoff 2004 Books on Philanthropy
Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy, Brest and Harvey

Money Well Spent explains how to create and implement a strategy that ensures meaningful results.

Paul Brest and Hal Harvey 2008 Books on Philanthropy
Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World

Proceeding from interviews with some of the most powerful people on the planet—including Gates, Bill Clinton, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, and Bono, among others—they show how a web of wealthy, motivated donors has set out to change the world.

Matthew Bishop and Michael Green 2009 Books on Philanthropy
Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad

Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism is intended as a source book on the origins, workings, and consequences of modern general-purpose foundations.

Robert Arnove (editor) 1982 Books on Philanthropy
Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector in a Changing America

In an attempt to analyze future directions of the increasingly influential nonprofit sector, the American Assembly and the Indiana Center on Philanthropy sponsored a conference that brought in leading scholars and practitioners. Participants were asked to consider what forces will determine the shape and activities of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector in the next decade.

Charles T. Clotfelter and Thomas Ehrlich (editors) 2001 Books on Philanthropy
Philanthropy in America: A History

Ranging from the influential large-scale foundations established by tycoons such as John D. Rockefeller, Sr., and the mass mobilization of small donors by the Red Cross and March of Dimes, to the recent social advocacy of individuals like Bill Gates and George Soros, respected historian Olivier Zunz chronicles the tight connections between private giving and public affairs, and shows how this union has enlarged democracy and shaped history.

Olivier Zunz 2011 Books on Philanthropy
Philanthropy Reconsidered: Private Initiatives - Public Good - Quality Of Life

A re-interpretation and strategic overview of philanthropy-its meaning and values, greatest accomplishments, current transformations, and future directions-based on close analysis of historical sources, and 25 years' practical experience in all aspects of philanthropy.

George McCully 2008 Books on Philanthropy
Power in Policy: A Funder's Guide to Advocacy and Civic Participation

Why should funders try to shape public policy? Simply put, because public policy has impact on mission. And, it’s the only way to affect the laws that determine how people will be treated, what services will be provided, and what behaviors are acceptable. But what role should foundations play? Power in Policy, written primarily by foundation practitioners for foundations, is the first book that makes a strong case for why advocacy and civic participation are fundamental roles for foundations.

David Arons (Editor) 2007 Books on Philanthropy
Resource Generation, Creating Change Through Family Philanthropy: The Next Generation

Based on the authors’ experiences with Resource Generation, a national nonprofit working with wealthy young progressives, the book makes the case for addressing urgent social and economic needs financially. It frames controversial topics from power dynamics to grants payout in an accessible way, offering next-generation readers the tools they need to transform their funds.

Alison Goldberg, Karen Piettelman, Resource Generation 2007 Books on Philanthropy
Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change

This work is a guidance manual on why, where and how to give money so it does the most good. The progressive ethic of giving endorsed in the book offers detailed ways to address the root causes of societal problems.

Chuck Collins, Pam Rogers, and Ellen Gurzinsky 2000 Books on Philanthropy
Saying 'Yes" Wisely: Insights for the Thoughtful Philanthropist

Saying "Yes", a collection of Marker's essays written over the past ten years, lays out his vision of what thoughtful and responsible philanthropy should be.

Richard Marker 2009 Books on Philanthropy
Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy

After listening for years to scores of individual and institutional funders discuss the challenges of giving wisely, Frumkin argues here that contemporary philanthropy requires a thorough rethinking of its underlying logic. Philanthropy should be seen, he contends, as both a powerful way to meet public needs and a meaningful way to express private beliefs and commitments.

Peter Frumkin 2006 Books on Philanthropy
The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan

In this definitive guide, world-renowned philanthropist Charles Bronfman and lifelong expert and nonprofit leader Jeffrey Solomon show donors and potential donors how to become street-smart, effective philanthropists.

Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon 2009 Books on Philanthropy
The Foundation: A Great American Secret: How Private Wealth is Changing the World

Joel Fleishman has been in and around foundations for almost half a century...running them, sitting on their boards, and seeking grants from them. And in this groundbreaking book he explains the history of foundations, tells the stories of the most successful foundation initiatives—and of those that have failed—and explains why it matters.

Joel Fleishman 2007 Books on Philanthropy
The Gospel of Wealth

This classic breakthrough essay by Andrew Carnegie about the responsibilities of those of great means to use their wealth for the good of society first appeared in the North American Review in 1898.

Andrew Carnegie 1898 Books on Philanthropy
The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism

For over a century, the United States has stood as a beacon of prosperity and democracy, proof that big business and big dreams could flourish side by side. Yet few Americans realize the crucial role that generosity plays in keeping that fragile balance. And now, with gated communities, oppressive personal debts, shrinking government, and tax and welfare reform crusades, that essential moral glue is at risk of melting away.

Claire Gaudiani 2003 Books on Philanthropy
The Insiders Guide to Grantmaking: How Foundations Find, Fund, and Manage Effective Programs

Unlike many formal professions, foundation grantmaking is a calling with no training programs and little definitive literature on the latest and best practices. Written for program officers and of considerable value to grantseekers, this volume is the first and only practical guide to making foundation grants and developing essential skills for effective and ethical grantmaking.

Joel J. Orosz 2000 Books on Philanthropy
The Life You Can Save: How to do your part to end world poverty

In The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer uses ethical arguments, illuminating examples, and case studies of charitable giving to show that our current response to world poverty is not only insufficient but morally indefensible. The Life You Can Save teaches us to be a part of the solution, helping others as we help ourselves.

Peter Singer 2010 Books on Philanthropy
The Perfect Gift: The Philanthropic Imagination in Poetry and Prose

Selections are drawn from the works of Aristotle, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, C. S. Lewis, Alexis de Tocqueville, Martin Luther King, P. G. Wodehouse, Sholom Aleichem, and Shel Silverstein, among others. They are organized by the specific question they address: When, why, how, to whom, and what should we give?

Amy A. Kass (editor) 2002 Books on Philanthropy
The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

A $1.3 trillion industry, the US nonprofit sector is the world’s seventh largest economy. From art museums and university hospitals to think tanks and church charities, over 1.5 million organizations of staggering diversity share the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) designation, if little else. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded gathers original essays by radical activists from around the globe who are critically rethinking the long-term consequences of this investment.

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (Editor) 2009 Books on Philanthropy
The World We Want: New Dimensions in Philanthropy and Social Change

Amazon description: Peter Karoff presents a collective vision of an ideal world. By sharing his experiences and through conversations with more than forty social entrepreneurs, activists, nonprofit leaders, and philanthropists who are changing notions of 'the human condition' in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and North America, he describes how new partnerships and approaches are reducing suffering and gaining greater equity for people everywhere.

Peter Karoff and Jane Maddox 2007 Books on Philanthropy
Understanding Philanthropy: Its Meaning and Mission

Presents a new way of thinking about the meaning and mission of philanthropy. Weaving together accessible theoretical explanations with fascinating examples of philanthropic action, this book advances key scholarly debates about philanthropy and offers practitioners a way of explaining the rationale for their nonprofit efforts.

Robert L. Payton and Michael Moody 2008 Books on Philanthropy
Wealth in Families

Collier's Socratic, humanistic, and therapeutic approach to consulting, could help any family unit- whether of significant means or not- by helping them to structure a discussion around those issues impeding their healthy growth.

Charles W. Collier 2006 Books on Philanthropy
Wit and Wisdom: Unleashing the Philanthropic Imagination

Featuring the voices and perspectives of ten diverse senior foundation executives, this book explores the nexus of philanthropy, racial equity, poverty, and community in the American South. In the form of one-on-one conversations, philanthropic leaders reflect on their lives’ work and share lessons on how to lead these critical institutions with integrity and creativity. These inspiring stories challenge readers to take a fresh look at philanthropy’s potential to effect change.

Mark Constantine 2010 Books on Philanthropy
Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business

In his latest page-turning work of business fiction, best-selling author Patrick Lencioni provides readers with another powerful and thought-provoking book, this one centered around a cure for the most painful yet underestimated problem of modern business: bad meetings. And what he suggests is both simple and revolutionary.

Patrick Lencioni 2004 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
Developing a Learning Culture in Nonprofit Organizations

Filled with practical tips and tools, the book shows students and managers of human services, arts, education, civic, and environmental agencies how to implement a learning culture with individuals, teams, the organization as a whole, and the larger community.

Stephen J. Gill 2009 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

The greatest managers in the world seem to have little in common. They differ in sex, age, and race. They employ vastly different styles and focus on different goals. Yet despite their differences, great managers share one common trait: They do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. They do not believe that, with enough training, a person can achieve anything he sets his mind to. They do not try to help people overcome their weaknesses. They consistently disregard the golden rule. And, yes, they even play favorites. This amazing book explains why.

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman 1999 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

A revelatory examination of how the wildfire like spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them, with profound long-term economic and social effects-for good and for ill.

Clay Shirky 2009 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices

In this classic text, Peter Drucker studies how modern-day managers, whether in business or public service, can perform effectively. He takes an international view, exploring management problems in Great Britain, Western Europe, Japan, and Latin America.

Peter F. Drucker 1993 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations

Mintzberg calls attention to numerous popular but false views about the nature of managerial work, separates fact from folklore, and provides the best information yet published on what managers do and how they do it.

Henry Mintzberg 2011 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
Mintzberg on Management

Mintzberg broadens his vision to explore not only the function of management, but also that of the organization itself and its meaning for society. A treasury of the dynamic and iconoclastic ideas that have made him a mentor to an entire younger generation of leading management thinkers, Mintzberg on Management presents the collective wisdom of this influential scholar -- in strategy, structure, power, and politics -- the gestalt of organizational theory.

Henry Mintzberg 2007 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
The Essential Drucker: In One Volume the Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management

Amazon description: The Essential Drucker contains twenty-six selections on management in the organization, management and the individual, and management and society. It covers the basic principles and concerns of management and its problems, challenges, and opportunities, giving managers, executives, and professionals the tools to perform the tasks that the economy and society of tomorrow will demand of them.

Peter F. Drucker 2001 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization

An MIT Professor's pathbreaking book on building "learning organizations" -- corporations that overcome inherent obstacles to learning and develop dynamic ways to pinpoint the threats that face them and to recognize new opportunities.

Peter M. Senge 1994 Books on Management, Leadership & Organizations
Collective Impact

Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.

John Kania and Mark R. Kramer 2011 Seminal Articles
From Spare Change to Real Change: The Social Sector as Beta Site for Business Innovation

Winning in business today demands innovation. Companies that innovate reap all the advantages of a first mover. They acquire a deep knowledge of new markets and develop strong relationships within them. Innovators also build a reputation of being able to solve the most challenging problems. That’s why corporations spend billions of dollars each year trying to identify opportunities for innovation—unsolved problems or unmet needs, things that don’t fit or don’t work. They set up learning laboratories where they can stretch their thinking, extend their capabilities, experiment with new technologies, get feedback from early users about product potential, and gain experience working with underserved and emerging markets.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter 1999 Seminal Articles
Galvanizing Philanthropy

Creating lasting environmental, social, and economic change requires discipline—a concept with which many foundations, grant makers, and committed wealthy individuals (well-intentioned as they may be) have traditionally struggled. Exempt from the accountability imposed on business by the markets or on government by voters, philanthropy is free to experiment and take risks. But with few external parties offering candid feedback or calling them to account, philanthropic investors (and their boards) have had insufficient experience objectively assessing their own performance and making hard decisions about programs and people.

Susan Wolf Ditkoff and Susan J. Colby 2009 Seminal Articles
Philanthropy's New Agenda: Creating Value

During the past two decades, the number of charitable foundations in the United States has doubled while the value of their assets has increased more than 1,100%. As new wealth continues to pour into foundations, the authors take a timely look at the field and conclude that radical change is needed. First, they explain why. Compared with direct giving, foundations are strongly favored through tax preferences whose value increases in rising stock markets. As a nation, then, we make a substantial investment in foundation philanthropy that goes well beyond the original gifts of private donors. We should therefore expect foundations to achieve a social impact disproportionate to their spending. If foundations serve merely as passive conduits for giving, then they not only fall far short of their potential but also fail to meet an important societal obligation. Drawing on Porter's work on competition and strategy, the authors then present a framework for thinking systematically about how foundations create value and how the various approaches to value creation can be deployed within the context of an overarching strategy. Although many foundations talk about "strategic" giving, much current practice is at odds with strategy. Among the common problems, foundations scatter their funding too broadly, they overlook the value-creating potential of longer and closer working relationships with grantees, and they pay insufficient attention to the ultimate results of the work they fund. This article lays out a blueprint for change, challenging foundation leaders to spearhead the evolution of philanthropy from private acts of conscience into a professional field.

Michael E. Porter & Mark R. Kramer 1999 Seminal Articles
Leading Boldly

Foundations can move past traditional approaches to create social change through imaginative – and even controversial – leadership

Ronald A. Heifetz, John V. Kania, & Mark R. Kramer 2004 Seminal Articles
Simple Measures for Social Enterprise

The objective of the Acumen Fund has been to push hard on questions of measurement and impact of investment in social enterprises. This article describes the organization’s efforts to get an answer to those questions and the complexity of measuring social change. The processes adopted by Acumen Fund serve as a useful guide for practitioners looking to develop their own sound impact measurement methodologies.

Brian Trelstad 1999 Seminal Articles
Virtuous Capital: What Foundations Can Learn from Venture Capitalists

U.S. foundations and nonprofits work diligently on behalf of society's most needy and yet report that progress is slow and social problems persist. How can they learn to be more effective with their limited resources? Foundations should consider expanding their mission from investing only in program innovation to investing in the organizational needs of nonprofit organizations as well. Their overemphasis on program design has meant deteriorating organizational capacity at many nonprofits. If foundations are to help nonprofits be assured of making payroll, paying the rent, or buying a much-needed computer, they must develop hands-on partnering skills. Venture capital firms offer a helpful benchmark. In addition to putting up capital, they closely monitor the companies in which they have invested, provide management support, and stay involved long enough to see the company become strong.

Christine W. Letts, William Ryan, Allen Grossman 1997 Seminal Articles
What is Strategy

Today's dynamic markets and technologies have called into question the sustainability of competitive advantage. Under pressure to improve productivity, quality, and speed, managers have embraced tools such as TQM, benchmarking, and reengineering. Dramatic operational improvements have resulted, but rarely have these gains translated into sustainable profitability. And gradually, the tools have taken the place of strategy. As managers push to improve on all fronts, they move further away from viable competitive positions. Michael Porter argues that operational effectiveness, although necessary to superior performance, is not sufficient, because its techniques are easy to imitate. In contrast, the essence of strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in systems of activities that are much more difficult to match. This article includes a one-page preview that quickly summarizes the key ideas and provides an overview of how the concepts work in practice along with suggestions for further reading.

Michael E. Porter 1996 Seminal Articles
Assessing the Impact

Many grantmakers agree that general operating support can boost effectiveness and impact for nonprofits. At the same time, however, the field continues to struggle to answer a question that has become a significant barrier to the wider use of general operating support: How are we going to measure its impact? This supplement to GEO’s General Operating Support Action Guide was created to demonstrate how some grantmakers are assessing the impact of general operating support.
*Requires GEO membership to view.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations 2008 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Bad Words for Good: How Foundations Garble Their Message and Lose Their Audience

Looks at the widespread use of jargon and other forms of unclear writing that prevent foundations and nonprofit organizations from successfully communicating their message.


Looks at the widespread use of jargon and other forms of unclear writing that prevent foundations and nonprofit organizations from successfully communicating their message. 2001 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR)

Stanford Social Innovation Review is an award-winning magazine and website that covers cross-sector solutions to global problems. SSIR is written for and by social change leaders in the nonprofit, business, and government sectors who view collaboration as key to solving environmental, social, and economic justice issues. Published at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University, SSIR bridges academic theory and practice with ideas about achieving social change. SSIR covers a wide range of subjects, from microfinance and green businesses to social networks and human rights. Its aim is both to inform and to inspire. Recommended Subscriptions
Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review Press publishes the best thinking in the areas of business strategy, general management, technology, leadership, human resources and innovation. Intelligent business readers turn to us for answers to the questions they face every day, and for the guidance and debate that will have a profound impact on their lives — both personally and professionally. Recommended Subscriptions
Women in Philanthropy: Mrs. Russell Sage (Margaret Olivia Slocum)

This collection of cases written for the Hauser Center on Nonprofit Management provide essential histories of the lives and philanthropic motivations and choices of some of the most significant women philanthropists in American history. They provide useful material for those looking to enliven historical philanthropy courses with biographical materials. At the same time, they serve as points of comparison for understanding contemporary philanthropy. As the daughter of a well-off merchant, Margaret Olivia Slocum was able to take advantage of the best education that Troy, New York had to offer. After finishing school, she entered the field of teaching to pursue her goal of reforming and strengthening the state of education, especially for young girls. Her early interest in reform and community service was somewhat stunted when she married millionaire and financier, Russell Sage. With little desire to help those who were "not helping themselves," Russell did not see philanthropy as a wise venue for his fortune. After Russell Sage's death in 1907, she took the tremendous fortune left to her and channeled themoney and her energy into those causes she saw most pressing. Dedicated to social betterment, she founding the Russell Sage Foundation with a considerable portion of her husband's money. Although named in the memory of her husband, the Foundation remains strong today due to the philanthropic vision and dedication of Mrs. Russell Sage.

Christine Mulhearn 2000 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
What's Next for Philanthropy

Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, What's Next for Philanthropy argues that while the cutting edge of philanthropic innovation over the last decade has been mostly about improving the effectiveness, efficiency, and responsiveness of individual organizations, the next practices of the coming 10 years will have to build on those efforts to include an additional focus on coordination and adaption--acting bigger and adapting better.To apply these approaches in your own organization and philanthropic efforts, use any of the links on the left to download the report or its accompanying do-it-yourself innovation toolkit.

Monitor Institute 2010 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Leap of Reason: Managing Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity

Leap of Reason is the product of decades of hard-won insights from philanthropist Mario Morino, McKinsey & Company, and top social-sector innovators. It is intended to spark the critically important conversations that every nonprofit board and leadership team should have in this new era of austerity. The authors make a convincing case that the nation's growing fiscal crisis will force all of us in the social sector to be clearer about our aspirations, more intentional in defining our approaches, more rigorous in gauging our progress, more willing to admit mistakes, more capable of quickly adapting and improving-all with an unrelenting focus on improving lives. "This monograph is a must-read for nonprofit leaders. It will help you stay singularly focused on your core mission and help you be effective at making a difference in people's lives." -Geoffrey Canada, Founder, Harlem Children's Zone

Mario Morino 2011 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
How Do Networks Support Scale?

Despite significant philanthropic and public sector investments to address disparities in human and environmental health, education and economic opportunity over decades, core social problems have not gone away and in some cases have increased. Often the approaches to addressing these problems are fragmented, and funding processes are overly complex or create unnecessary restrictions, leaving nonprofits as well as philanthropic and government funders ill equipped to successfully increase social impact. In the midst of a mounting imperative to achieve better and more results, grantmakers of all kinds are shifting the way they think about scale, emphasizing not size or reach but impact.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations 2011 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Good to Great for the Social Sectors

Jim Collins Answers the Social Sector with a Monograph to Accompany Good to Great. 30-50% of those who bought Good to Great work in the Social Sector.

Jim Collins 2005 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Foundation and Government: Social Innovation, Policy Advocacy and Collaborations to Improve Government Effectiveness

Joel Fleishman explores the evolution of foundation advocacy, beginning in the late 19th century and continuing to the present. He outline the strategies that foundations may use in achieving their objectives, including those for engaging with government. He also discusses the origination of foundation-government collaborations, which most often begin with foundations (though in some instances they are initiated by government actors). Finally, Fleishman argue that, in addition to advocacy of more effective and more equitable policy changes, an exceedingly fruitful kind of foundation-government relationship is capacity building of government agencies, very much like the capacity building foundations have employed in strengthening the functioning of their grantees.

Joel Fleishman 2009 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Effective Collaborations: Recommendations For a Connected Philanthropic Infrastructure

The report explores the ways in which infrastructure organizations think about the value and the mechanics of collaboration—the drivers and barriers to collaborative work—and to determine ways to encourage more effective partnerships. The publication features a framework for understanding different types of collaboration, a set of recommendations for better collaboration, and a series of case studies that show a range of partnerships that tease out the potential benefits and challenges of various kinds of collaboration.

Council on Foundations 2010 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Do Nothing About Me Without Me: An Action Guide for Engaging Stakeholders

The goals of this action guide are to
1. Define stakeholder engagement as it applies to the work of grantmakers,
2. Make the case that engaging grantees and other relevant stakeholders in
strategy development and grantmaking practices leads to improved results,
3. Provide grantmakers with a variety of options for engaging stakeholders and
steps for doing so, and
4. Offer examples of the different ways grantmakers are engaging stakeholders
and the positive impact that stakeholder engagement has on their grantmaking.

J. Courtney Bourns 2010 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports
Criteria for Philanthorpy at Its Best

NCRP Developed a set of criteria to provide grantmakers with the tools to ensure the civic sector becomes the highest performing compliment to government and free enterprise.
Criterion I: Values
Criterion II: Effectiveness
Criterion III: Ethics
Criterion IV: Committment

Niki Jagpal 2009 Frequently Mentioned Monographs & Reports