“I have the report- now what?” 7 Questions to Ask When Reading Program Evaluations

Program evaluations provide answers to a key question: “Did this program work in a particular population and setting?” For funders who haven’t been trained in reading evaluations, wading through such reports can be confusing and time-consuming. So, to get the most out of program evaluations, here are 7 questions to ask when reading them.

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Strategy and Evaluation

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A Model for Multilevel Advocacy Evaluation

The Colorado Trust provided three years of general operating support to nine advocacy organizations working to increase access to health through policy change work. The nine grantees had a variety of goals and strategies and had different levels of organizational capacity, but were evaluated using a uniform evaluation approach. The evaluation was designed to build grantees’ own evaluation capacity to incorporate real-time feedback, monitor progress toward goals, and to assess growth in the overall health advocacy community in Colorado. Individual grantees identified short- and intermediate- term outcomes related to The Trust’s intermediate outcomes, which were in turn related to the Read more

Categories: Grantmaking, Laws and Legal Issues, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices

For foundations, there are lots of questions to reflect on when thinking about which evaluation practices best align with their strategy, culture, and mission. How much should a foundation invest in evaluation? What can they do to ensure that the information they receive from evaluation is useful to them? With whom should they share what they have learned? Considering these numerous questions in light of benchmarking data about what other foundations are doing can be informative and important. Developed in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation (CEI), Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practicesis the most comprehensive data collection effort to date Read more

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Strategy and Evaluation

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Beyond the Grant: How the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Went Beyond Grantmaking to Contribute to a Major Early Childhood Initiative

Key Points The seven-year SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) initiative, created by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), aimed at systemically linking the pre-K and kindergarten worlds as a way to position vulnerable children for greater success in the early grades. At the foundation, the initiative served as a departure point for WKKF to move from its traditional grantmaking role to a changemaker role. To create change, a foundation must articulate – and commit to – a point of view about how change can occur. A theory of change can be a powerful tool to guide ongoing planning Read more

Categories: Laws and Legal Issues, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Program Level Learning and Evaluation

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Collective Impact Forum

The Collective Impact Forum exists to support the efforts of those who are practicing collective impact in the field. While the rewards of collective impact can be great, the work is often demanding. Those who practice it must keep themselves and their teams motivated and moving forward. The Collective Impact Forum is the place to find the tools and training that can help achieve success. It’s an expanding network of like-minded individuals coming together from across sectors to share useful experience and knowledge and thereby accelerating the effectiveness, and further adoption, of the collective impact approach as a whole.

Categories: History, Role in Society, Mission, Vision and Values, Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Models & Approaches, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Conflicts of Interest at Foundations: Avoiding the Bad and Maintaining the Good

Multiple loyalties can create conflicts of interest. In private foundations, conflicts of interest occur when the financial or personal interests of board members or foundation managers are, or may appear to be, inconsistent with the interests of the foundation. This resource guides board members and foundation managers in defining conflicts of interest, identifying which transactions are absolutely prohibited and which are permissible if properly handled, and developing a conflict-of- interest policy that protects foundations, board members, and foundation managers by taking self interest out of the decision-making process. Additionally, we provide a sample conflict-of-interest policy and disclosure questionnaire.

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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Conflicts of Interest at Foundations: Avoiding the Bad and Managing the Good

This publication will guide board members and foundation managers in defining conflicts of interest, identifying which transactions are absolutely prohibited and which are permissible if properly handled, and developing a conflict-of-interest policy that protects foundations, board members, and foundation managers by taking self interest out of the decision-making process. By answering the following five questions and by following the processes recommended in this paper, foundations can minimize legal risks; protect themselves and their board members and foundation managers against bad publicity; and most of all, ensure the integrity of their decision-making process.

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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Conflicts of Interest: Steering Clear of Potholes and Other Bumps in the Road

Most family foundations prefer to focus on the business of giving, without having to worry about tripping over the sometimes obscure rules and regulations that govern this work. But the fact is that family foundation boards need to be aware of potential potholes on the road named philanthropy. Driving blind down this road can get you into trouble. One potential pothole is real or perceived conflict of interest, a topic frequently misunderstood, and often confused with self-dealing.

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Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best

What differentiates an exemplary foundation from the rest of its peers? What can foundations do to improve its relevance to nonprofits, the economically and socially underserved Americans and society as a whole? Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact is the first ever set of measurable guidelines that will help foundations and other institutional grantmakers operate ethically and maximize the impact of their dollars.

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact

The Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact is the first ever set of measurable guidelines that will help foundations and other institutional grantmakers operate ethically and maximize the impact of their dollars. It attempts to answer the questions: What differentiates an exemplary foundation from the rest of its peers? What can foundations do to improve its relevance to nonprofits, the economically and socially underserved Americans and society as a whole? (Note: Printed copies are available for purchase)

Categories: Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Defining, Building, and Measuring Capacity: Findings From an Advocacy Evaluation

Funders often focus their grants to build capacity, recognizing the important roles that leadership, skills, and infrastructure have on an organization’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission. This article reports on results from Mathematica Policy Research’s evaluation of Consumer Voices for Coverage, a program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the role of consumer health advocacy coalitions in 12 states. The foundation based the program on a study that identified six core advocacy capacities, and designed it to strengthen these capacities. The evaluation found that the level of funding, substantial and targeted technical assistance, and the three-year Read more

Categories: Models & Approaches, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Developing a Master Data Sharing Agreement: Seeking Student-Level Evidence to Support a Collaborative Community Effort in Education

A private foundation, a public school system, and a state university joined forces to address a difficult, long-standing challenge: closing the academic achievement gap between urban and suburban students. All parties agreed that sharing of longitudinal, student-level data was required to drive and evaluate multiple efforts to close the gap, but significant technical, regulatory, and political obstacles stood in the way. The parties worked through multiple challenges and forged a Master Data Sharing Agreement (MDSA) that will facilitate both daily intelligence for program staff and powerful post-hoc research capacity. This MDSA text has been released online for your use under Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Embedded Foundations: Advancing Community Change and Empowerment

Embedded funders are foundations that have made long-term commitments to the communities in which they are located or work. Foundations have a long history in funding community development, often with few concrete results. Political conditions, the increasing divide between rich and poor, inaccessibility of education, lack of housing, and continued segregation and racial discrimination are issues that need be addressed concurrently and resources need to be drawn from a variety of sources, particularly the neighborhoods themselves. This complexity has created an impetus for embedded philanthropy. Embedded funders work participatively with the community and frame evaluations in less theoretical, more actionable Read more

Categories: History, Role in Society, Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Models & Approaches, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Finding the Fix: Embracing Philanthropy’s Role in Transforming an Urban Education Landscape

Education funders have historically used a “demonstration project” approach to funding, designed to lever change by demonstrating a new program and providing technical assistance to foster broader adoption. Despite demonstrating success with many of its grants, the Skillman Foundation’s education reform initiatives were derailed and undone by the instability of the district leadership, political landscape shifts, and disintegrating neighborhoods. A complete turnaround model must address the many issues facing a failing school, including culture, curriculum, school leadership, professional development, and classroom instruction. The stability of the central administration must also be considered. The new look at urban reform at scale Read more

Categories: Models & Approaches, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Issue Specific Grantmaking

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Global Philanthropy and Civil Society

Once thought to be uniquely American, philanthropy and civil society are now seen as global phenomena. This course highlights the obligations of philanthropy to support civil society as its primary vehicle for accomplishing its programmatic objectives. Examine individual giving, organized philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, and corporate philanthropy as contributors to the common good throughout the world. Analyze the impact of technology on giving and the role of evaluation in assessing the ability of global philanthropy to sustain civil society. The course is taught through lectures, discussions, and readings.

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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GMNsight: Ideas About Big Data

“This has been the crossover year for Big Data — as a concept, as a term and, yes, as a marketing tool. Big Data has sprung from the confines of technology circles into the mainstream.”  — The New York Times What Big Data is, and what it means for how grants are made, are key questions in philanthropy circles thanks to the explosion of data-minded collaborative projects like The Reporting Commitment. Are grantmakers using Big Data? How does a foundation begin its Big Data adventure? What about privacy concerns? Will focusing on numbers take the humanity out of philanthropy? GMNsight’s Spring 2013 Read more

Categories: Grants Management, Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Program Level Learning and Evaluation, Beyond the Grant 

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Guiding Principles and Effective Practices for Connecticut Grantmakers

Guiding Principles and Effective Practices for Connecticut Grantmakers is a concise resource listing eight guiding principles for Connecticut grantmaker accountability and suggested effective practices. The Connecticut Council’s Board of Directors offers these Guiding Principles and Effective Practices to its members and other Connecticut funders to articulate a shared commitment to excellence and to serve as a guide for Connecticut funders as we pursue our missions. CCP recognizes that there are different ways to implement each of the Guiding Principles and offers suggestions for effective practices that can be adopted or adapted to best suit your organization.  More information on implementing these Read more

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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Keeping Good Records: Small Foundations’ Guide to Staying Organized

Discover how to organize, archive, and protect your important documents. Includes: The costs of recordkeeping — in money and time; what to keep and for how long; advice on establishing a records management system and records retention policy; how recordkeeping can help you fulfill your mission and program; audits; what records you must share with the public.

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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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

Categories: Mission, Vision and Values, Models & Approaches, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Lessons (Not Yet) Learned

Despite a significant influx of charitable dollars over the last 10 to 20 years, solutions to complex social problems remain elusive, while philanthropy has been facing growing pressure to account for its tax-free dollars; to demonstrate, replicate, and scale success; and to be transparent about failed social investments. When foundations and their nonprofit partners ignore a failure and move on, whether it is to protect their own reputation or the reputations of valued partners or simply because of the pressure to keep going, it is too easy to toss out the baby with the bathwater – to toss aside a Read more

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Models & Approaches, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Michigan Foundation Directory, 18th Edition

The Council of Michigan Foundations, in partnership with the Foundation Center, is pleased to offer the 18th edition of the Michigan Foundation Directory.  This invaluable resource for grantseekers provides: Updated and streamlined information in the 1,500+Michigan foundations accepting grant applications Key facts on Michigan grantmakers Tips on researching funders A sample grant application form NEW:  This edition is available as a searchable, downloadable PDF only.  You will be provided with a link to download the Michigan Foundation Directory when you’ve completed the purchase. This publication is non-refundable and non-returnable.

Categories: Standards, Codes, and Ethics, General Grants 

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National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers Code of Ethical Conduct

NNCG’s Code of Ethical Conduct was crafted and adopted to advance professionalism and ethical behavior in the field of philanthropy consulting. It includes 15 standards in two categories: Commitment to Clients Commitment to the Public and Profession.

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National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations

The Council on Foundations takes a leadership role in shaping community foundations’ self-regulation by promoting The National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™. – See more at: http://www.cof.org/content/national-standards-us-community-foundations#sthash.X8jvRu5S.dpuf

Categories: Grantmaking, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Philanthropy Lessons: Being Transparent

In this video, seven funders discuss how successful philanthropy is built on transparency between the funder and the grantee, and within the funding community.  

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Philanthropy’s Civic Role in Community Change

This article describes six key roles for philanthropic organizations’ engagement in communities. It draws on Living Cities, a consortium of financial organizations, private foundations, and public sector organizations that has been working since 1991 to improve distressed neighborhoods in 23 cities. The six civic roles described are (a) convening and leveraging diverse networks of relationships, (b) developing local data and plans for community change, (c) leveraging new resources on behalf of communities, (d) mobilizing political will, (e) framing new messages about community development and communicating more strategically, and (f) generating and testing new ideas and building and sharing knowledge. Typically Read more

Categories: Laws and Legal Issues, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Beyond the Grant , General Grants 

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Practice Options for Philanthropic Organizations

The Practice Options for Philanthropic Organizations have been prepared by the Minnesota Council on Foundations as an illustration of the varying levels of practices that philanthropic organizations might adopt to implement the Principles for Grantmakers. The Practice Options for Philanthropic Organizations make the Principles for Grantmakers more specific – creating guiding practices against which a philanthropic organization can hold itself accountable to the public and the communities it serves. Practice options include: Governance Accountability and Communications Program (Grantmaking, Public Policy Engagement and Other Programs) Finance and Administration Human Resources Fund Development (and Other Issues Unique to Community and Public Foundations)

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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Principles for Grantmakers

The Principles for Grantmakers, to which all members of the Council subscribe as part of membership, are broad, aspirational statements of responsibilities implied by the public trust vested in charitable, tax-exempt philanthropic organizations and by the high ethical standards to which the Council and its members are committed.

Categories: Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Public Scrutiny of Foundations and Charities:The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Response

This chapter of the RWJF Anthology provides an overview of congressional scrutiny of foundations and charitable organizations and the sector’s response. They place the 2005 Senate hearings in the context of past congressional examinations of foundations, analyze the underlying issues, and explain how philanthropy is trying to address concerns about its lack of accountability. The authors conclude by discussing the approaches adopted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to make its own work more transparent, especially through its evaluation and communications strategies.

Categories: Laws and Legal Issues, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Responsible Exiting Principles

This list of eight tips and lessons on exiting strategy is based on the Beldon Fund’s experience with spending out.

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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Responsive Philanthropy: Foundation Examines Its Practices Using Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best

This issue of the quarterly journal looks at a leading San Francisco foundation that evaluated its own practices using “Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best,” building the capacity of nonprofits serving older adults, updating nonprofit advocacy regulations, and a call to transform philanthropy.

Categories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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RWJF Assessment Report 2013

This assessment report examined our Foundation’s performance through an annual report to our Board of Trustees. This report tracks performance according to sound program development, measurable program impact, and solid customer service.

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The Nonprofit Policy Sampler

For nonprofit organizations, policies are tools for setting priorities, making decisions, and defining and delegating responsibilities. Too often, policies are created to ensure a bad decision made during a crisis is never repeated. But policy-making need not be reactive. Boards that practice proactive policy-making can save themselves a great deal of anguish in a crisis situation that demands an immediate response. The Nonprofit Policy Sampler is designed to help. This exhaustive resource provides key elements and practical tips for 70 policy topic areas, along with more than 300 sample policies, job descriptions, committee charters, codes of ethics, board member agreements, mission and Read more

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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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

Categories: Laws and Legal Issues, Models & Approaches, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Issue Specific Grantmaking

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The power of money

Stephen Pittam discusses the power of money: Six months after I had started working for the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) a close friend said to me, ‘you have changed – you expect people to listen to you.’ It was a good reminder of the best piece of advice I received on getting the job. Eric Adams of the Barrow Cadbury Trust told me, ‘keep your feet on the ground and you will be alright’.

Categories: History, Role in Society, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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The Quest for Quality: Lessons From a Certification Pilot Project for College Access Providers

Certification programs can provide a way for nonprofits to ensure adherence to generally accepted standards. The KH2GO Certification Pilot Project, supported by the Lumina Foundations, developed a set of standards for high-quality college access services, including standards for programming, operations, and organizational effectiveness. The project was implemented in two states with an evaluation designed to assess the quality of the assessment tools and the ease and rigor of implementation. The more clarity that applicants had about the goals of the process, potential benefits, and details about procedures, the more benefits they perceived. Many applicants felt that the self-assessment improved their Read more

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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The Source Codes of Foundation Culture

This publication begins an exploration into the set of influences shaped by grantmakers’ founders and leaders that affect organizations’ internal cultures. Funders can use this document to support conversations among board and staff to articulate and understand the origins of organizational assumptions, examine beliefs and behaviors, and identify aspects of culture that drive or impede effective work.

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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.

Categories: History, Role in Society, Laws and Legal Issues, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Top 5 Starting Places for Family Foundations and Donors

By: Michael Moody, Frey Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy These five resources in the LearnPhilanthropy Knowledge Library are ideal starting places for grantmakers involved in family giving in some way – as a trustee or staff of a family foundation or a donor-advised fund, as an individual donor, as a consultant or family advisor, etc. This list also points to some of the primary infrastructure organizations serving family grantmakers, and each source has multiple other resources for family donors who want to dig further. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors: Your Philanthropy Roadmap – The “Philanthropy Read more

Categories: Grantmaking, Models & Approaches, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Individual Professional Development , Resources, Top 5 Lists

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Turning the Ship: Moving From Clinical Treatment to Environmental Prevention: A Health Disparities Policy Advocacy Initiative

This article examines success factors for a statewide initiative to reduce health disparities by establishing environmental policies to reduce asthma risk factors for school-aged children. Twelve local coalitions and a statewide network focused on schools, housing, and outdoor air policies. Multiple types and levels of policy advocacy were encouraged by the Initiative so that issues at the local level linked to larger issues across the state, and conversely state-level policies supported local endeavors. Factors that contributed to the success of the initiative included: structuring the initiative on a systems change model; employing multiple technical assistance providers to assure fidelity to Read more

Categories: History, Role in Society, Laws and Legal Issues, Standards, Codes, and Ethics

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Twelve Activities that Require Extra Oversight

Private foundation trustees and staff oversee countless activities. Several activities—some mandatory, others voluntary—call for additional care. In particular, according to your fellow foundation leaders and the advisors who serve them, missteps happen in conjunction with the following activities more often than elsewhere in foundation work. *This content is available for Exponent Philanthropy members only

Categories: The Philanthropic Sector, Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Resources

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Using Civic Engagement and Collaboration to Create Community Change: Lessons From Charlotte, N.C.

The city of Charlotte, N.C. undertook a deliberative democracy process using the AmericaSpeaks “21st Century Town Meeting” process. The University of North Carolina-Charlotte performed a retrospective, process evaluation of the initiative examining the initiative’s components, coverage, participant feedback, short-term outcomes, and lessons learned. Early planning and implementation was done by volunteers, which ultimately was not sustainable. A new center, housed within an existing organization, was created to implement the recommendations. The initiative achieved a number of early successes, such as increasing the number of school nurses, expansion of an early childhood development program and an increase in after-school and summer Read more

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