This chapter is a personal reflection by Frank Karel on his years as vice president for communications of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He looks back on the early days, when the Foundation was groping to find an appropriate role for communications, and traces its evolution to the present. Karel is uniquely qualified to provide this retrospective. He has had the singular experience of heading communications at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation twice. During his first tenure, between 1974 and 1987, he originated many of the communications strategies that the Foundation follows today. After leaving to head communications at the Read more
Like many specialized spheres of interest, the world of private foundations has its own language, with unique terms and specific definitions you are unlikely to encounter elsewhere. Fortunately, the majority of these terms are relatively easy to comprehend and with a brief introduction, you’ll soon become quite facile with philanthropic jargon. This booklet will help you understand 21 common and not-so common terms pertaining to private foundations. Some of these terms are related to specific rules and regulations governing private foundations and will help you stay in compliance with IRS regulations; others will help you communicate with professionals in the Read more
Between more traditional channels of communications like direct mail, email, and newsletters and all the new channels you’ve adopted, like social media, multimedia, and blogs, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to your organization’s messaging. How do you create and maintain a consistent voice across so many channels? How do you coordinate your various communications to work in tandem rather than competing, engaging constituents and inspiring them to take action rather than confusing, overwhelming, or annoying them? Channels cannot thrive in a vacuum. Your constituents will think of them all as one voice—your nonprofit’s—and so should you. Read more
Do you know if your communications are working? Have you ever asked? If the answer to both questions is “no,” you’re not alone. Few foundation communicators claim they regularly – if at all – formally evaluate their work. To help, the Communications Network has published Are We There Yet? A Communications Evaluation Guide. This guide walks users through a nine-step process for creating plans for monitoring and measuring their communications. In addition to step-by-step planning advice, the guide includes several case studies from the Lumina Foundation for Education, The Wallace Foundation and others where the data from evaluation efforts helps Read more
This article describes the results of a study on current knowledge and practices in evaluating foundation communications. The study consisted of three parts: an online survey of practitioners, a series of in-depth key informant interviews, and an extensive literature review. The study found that while most practitioners agree that evaluating communications is necessary to make decisions about their communication strategy, more than half did not regularly do so. Lack of experience or skills was the second top barrier cited, after lack of human/financial resources. Those who have more experience with evaluation were more likely to feel that it was not Read more
Foundations increasingly recognize the importance of strategic and effective communications to advance their social-change goals. This article provides a framework that helps foundations to better understand the communications capacity of their grantee partners. Based on a detailed analysis of a survey of 529 foundations, universities and nonprofits, the authors created a six-point index that identifies the characteristics and practices of organizations that are ranked as highly effective at using communications to advance their goals. The six indicators are: Involvement of organization leadership in communications, communications planning and organization-wide planning, staffing and the use of outside expertise, donor understanding and support Read more
How can foundations assess the effectiveness of training programs designed to help grantees develop effective communications skills? The Hewlett Foundation commissioned a study to explore just this question, and shares lessons learned including: – Make sure participants, and the organizations they’re from, are ready for training and can “put adequate human and financial resources into place to support communications.” – Invite teams, not individuals, to take part in training. – Robust follow-up is key. What people learn in class won’t stick if the lessons aren’t reinforced. and: – Support efforts to integrate communications with program strategy. If foundations really want Read more
Foundation communications goes far beyond an annual report or the occasional press release about grantees. And it’s no longer the exclusive domain of big foundations, communications staff, or consultants. Integrating communications is critical to advancing programmatic goals. See how grantmakers use a “communications lens” to develop strategy, evaluate impact, take advantage of new media technologies, and more.
Communication That Counts offers practical lessons in communicating for impact based on the experiences of funders and others involved in social investment in South Africa. The insights in Communication That Counts are pertinent both to South Africans and others beyond its borders, as it explores universal themes related to how to communicate with partners, social investors, and grantees; how to identify and achieve communication goals; and how different media can help enhance different messages. The guide was developed in partnership with Tshikululu Social Investments.
This guide introduces community foundation CEOs and their staff to the spectrum of choices available to them in the different aspects of their work: governance, management, administration, resource development, donor relations, grantmaking, community leadership, communication, marketing, and more. Although written primarily for staff, the chapters are broad enough that board members and volunteers will find them valuable. For newcomers, this handbook will serve as a comprehensive orientation. For seasoned staff it provides a useful refresher.
GEO’s newest publication sets out to crack the code behind the network mystique. In fact, there is a method to working more efficiently and effectively through networks, and a critical first step for grantmakers is adopting a network mindset, which may require dramatic shifts in attitude and behavior for some. Cracking the Network Code outlines four principles that comprise the network mindset, illustrates the principles with a range of examples of networks that have achieved real results, and offers practical questions and recommendations to help grantmakers achieve the benefits and avoid common pitfalls of working through networks.
Author: Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO)
Reveals the key components of effective foundation communications with grantees. MORE Based on analyses of thousands of grantee surveys, this issue paper argues for a more holistic approach to foundation communications than is often practiced today. This report highlights best practices and provides practical management implications for foundation leaders.
This case study is designed to encourage foundations to communicate with the public and the community about their work on diversity. The report considers the views of leaders of five prominent foundations in the United States. Based on their answers, experiences, and explanations, the study describes the various methods of communicating. The report explains how foundations can start using new media sources 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 Read more
As a donor, your grantees’ results are your results—they are creating change for the people and causes you care most passionately about. So collaborating effectively with your grantees is a critical step on your journey from aspirations to real results. This publication from the Bridgespan Group and GiveSmart outline the keys to building strong relationships with grantees – relationships grounded in shared goals and buoyed by a productive working relationship.
Effective writing, whatever your field, shares some basic characteristics. It is Clear and Concrete, Courteous and Collegial, Current and Consistent, and Concise. We call these the seven C’s of effective writing. This article will address the first two C’s, Clear and Concrete, and share tips on how to state your case so others can understand it and respond.
To help you keep your writing and speaking free of jargon, we are pleased to present Jargon Finder – an online collection of foundation and nonprofit jargon, defined and discussed. Examples include “capacity,” “impact,” and “leverage.” Most of the examples are excerpted from Tony Proscio’s three book-length essays on jargon originally published by The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation: In Other Words; Bad Words for Good; and When Words Fail. The Communications Network thanks the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation for its permission to feature these words on our site.
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.
Effectively managing fundraising and philanthropic organizations is the key to meeting goals, motivating employees, inspiring the board, and building public trust. Whether you manage one person or 100, you need to know the tested principles of effective management. This course addresses the ways in which fundraising and philanthropic organizations differ from other organizations, the many roles of the manager, and the critical difference between management and leadership. Class sessions focus on strategic planning; staff, volunteer, and board management; effective budgeting; time management; and basic legal issues.
Author: Academy for Grantmaking and Funder Education, New York University
It’s time to break the “starvation cycle,” a vexing pattern of underfunding and underinvesting that prevents countless nonprofits from maximizing their impact. Despite years of conversation around the topic of funding the real cost of programs, many grantmakers continue to pay flat—and too low—overhead rates regardless of a their grantees’ actual needs. “Pay what it takes” philanthropy looks to remedy the situation by providing a flexible approach to funding, grounded in real costs. By taking into account the true dollars needed, this new approach has the potential to shift funding from programs and services to what it actually takes to create Read more
Michael Smith, SVP Social Innovation, the Case Foundation, admits he’s a convert to the benefits communications can bring to program work. As he says in this video, in his early days at the foundation, he thought his job was to create program strategy and then hand off his work to the communications team to think about what they can do with it. Not so anymore. Smith says his conversion came after seeing “the real benefits the communications team was bringing to the work we were doing.” While Smith acknowledges his views may not be shared widely by foundation program staff, Read more
This webinar is designed to give communications practitioners in foundations insight into important things to know about their jobs, including: How important is brand? How do you make things run smoothly? (No staff posting drunken pics from grantee site visit on foundation Facebook page) Do we need a communication plan? What’s my role with other staff and our grantees? How do I know if I am doing a good job? Whether you are brand new to this work or an old hand curious about questions people new to this work bring to their jobs, watch the webinar, listen and learn.
Strategic communications can play a crucial role in advancing tangible community-wide impacts. “Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project” (SYP) was developed by The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation and the Millennium Group to improve the civility of public discourse, under the premise that this would strengthen community decision making, expand civic engagement, and increase residents’ interest in elected office. The SYP campaign promotes nine principles (or “tools”) adapted from Forni’s book Choosing Civility (e.g., pay attention, take responsibility, apologize, give constructive criticism). City councils, county commissions, and school boards in the region adopted the nine tools as ground rules for Read more
Communications professionals at America’s grantmaking foundations are responding to the digital age, according to a new survey from the Communications Network. This survey of 155 foundation communicators shows U.S. foundations are making use of all forms digital communications, especially social media, a top priority. The survey results suggest the growth of social media and other emerging digital technologies is changing the way foundations communicate with target audiences.
This article describes how the Annie E. Casey Foundation is using the KIDS COUNT Network in a new way: as a strategic communications tool in its focused efforts toward policy change, broad social change, and improved conditions for vulnerable children and families. An outcome map illustrates links between this strategy and the intended outcomes. Case illustrations of KIDS COUNT grantee activities surrounding the release of the 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book describe the efforts of grantees in six states where the quantity and quality of media coverage surrounding the national data book reflected the kind of coverage that Casey believes Read more
Communications matters more than ever before for foundations, and to be strategic means making the best use of all your resources and in ways that advance programs, goals, and missions. Annual reports deserve credit from earlier times for helping foundations be more transparent. But over the years they seem to have been saddled with an unrealistic expectation that they can also serve larger strategic communication goals. It’s likely that the work annual reports are expected to do might be better accomplished in other more effective, and perhaps less costly and time-consuming ways. This report was co-produced by the Philanthropy Awareness Read more
A web presence is critical for almost every nonprofit, but creating websites can be daunting. It can take a lot of time, money and technical expertise, all of which are often in short supply. And even if you have a website up and running, that doesn’t mean your work is done—you still need to keep up with maintenance, updates, and desirable new features. This is where a Content Management System (CMS) can help.
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
Fashions in philanthropy can be every bit as startling as the catwalk: evaluation methods and grantmaking approaches change as fast as hemlines. But onefashion that is probably here to stay (a bit like men’s suits) is transparency, which makes it worth taking a longer look at. Transparency for funders is a helpful idea, but it’s not a panacea. If private foundations and grantmakers think it is, then their attempts to bring a measure of sunlight to a sector shrouded in mist are likely to fail or, much worse, do damage. We need to recognize that glass-pocket principles need to be Read more
In this conversation, Phil Buchanan and Susan Herr explore attacks on philanthropy, what is motivating these charges, and why it is important for more of us to challenge broad stereotypes that aren’t based on evidence.