Blueprint for a Healthier America

This report, produced by the Trust for America’s Health with support from several foundations including Kresge, calls for a new approach to health which prioritizes improving health and addressing major epidemics in the United States. The report highlights pressing crises and how investments could yield positive returns on investment by adopting proven health strategies, such as substance use prevention, programs to promote physical activity and connecting health and social services.

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Building the Capacity of California’s Safety Net: Lessons From the Strengthening Community Dental Practices Demonstration

The authors describe the results of a demonstration project funded by the California HealthCare Foundation and the California Pipeline Program. They assessed the effectiveness of practice-management consulting in helping California’s safety-net dental practices survive and thrive. The evaluation showed that most clinics made measurable improvements. Their experiences point to several factors that create an environment for success. A second phase of the project is being implemented that builds on lessons learned from the demonstration.

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Changing the Odds for Kids (Part One): What capacity do the supports and opportunities in the six Good Neighborhoods provide for young people and what characteristics of a system are in place?

This first assessment of the systems of supports and opportunities (SOSO) informs The Skillman Foundation and its partners about availability and quality of youth development opportunities and basic services supports in the six Good Neighborhoods.

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Children’s Futures: Lessons From a Second-Generation Community Change Initiative

This article describes Children’s Futures, a 10-year initiative in Trenton, N.J., that seeks to improve the health and well-being of children from 0 to 3 years old and ensure that they are ready for school. During the first five years, the initiative was successful in implementing a number of evidence-based practices to improve children’s health, such as providing home visits to pregnant women, measuring and improving the quality of day care centers, and improving the use of information systems to track childhood immunizations. Efforts to provide services for fathers and improve home-based child care were not successful; these are areas Read more

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Climate Adaptation – The State of Practice in U.S. Communities

This executive summary of the report that examined efforts to develop and implement climate-adaptation projects in 17 cities across the U.S. includes findings to key questions, conclusions, and tactical recommendations.    

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Community Building for Children’s Health: Lessons From Community Partnerships for Healthy Children

This article describes Community Partnerships for Healthy Children (CPHC), a 10-year, $17 million initiative of the Sierra Health Foundation targeted at improving children’s health in northern California by mobilizing communities to use their assets. Implementation grants were modest ($50,000 annually), but technical assistance and communications support were also provided. The initiative rolled out in four phases. Overall, a total of 31 communities participated in the initiative. Twenty-six communities remained through phase three, with 18 engaging in the final fourth phase. Evidence indicates that CPHC improved the health of some children in some communities with regard to some outcomes, but did Read more

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Community Voices Heard: Engaging Constituents for Social, Economic and Racial Justice

Learn how CVH builds leadership development and collective power towards broader goals of government transparency and social justice. We explored case studies around three impact issues: welfare policy reform, public housing reform, and participatory budgeting. We also learned what it looks like to fund this work. Attendees learned how funding community engagement can fit into a broader social change grantmaking strategy.    

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Community-Based Collaboration: A Philanthropic Model for Positive Social Change

A highly publicized incident served as a catalyst for the Austin, Texas, community, convened by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, to address gaps in the behavioral health system. The foundation worked with the local behavioral health authority, the mayor’s office, police and sheriff’s departments, and the city health department to design the Austin Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force. The task force was succeeded by a monitoring committee that identified six focus areas in which to develop action plans and monitor community progress. This collaborative process aimed to strengthen public commitment to behavioral health services and create a cross-agency planning Read more

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Corporate Giving Gets Smarter: ConAgra Foods Foundation Fights Childhood Hunger

This article discusses how a better “map” can develop strategic focus and alignment, increasing the potential for results. Program development and evaluation are best done hand in hand. In complex systems, co-construction has huge yield. It promotes accuracy, comprehensiveness, and utility. Grantmakers can provide more than funding; they can identify and use new tools, processes, and resources with multiple stakeholders for effectiveness. Alignment and integration are powerful principles inside and outside organizations as well as across sectors in pursuit of social change.

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Creating and Scaling Innovative School Models Through Strategic Partnerships

The Texas High School Project (THSP) was created in 2003 as a public-private alliance to support education reform across the state. This article focuses on the pivotal role of philanthropy within the THSP alliance to create early college high schools (ECHS). The model has been scaled at different levels to produce direct, affordable pathways for students to both attend college and attain skilled careers. The ECHS schools have higher test scores, greater credits earned, and reduced dropouts rates compared to traditional schools. Foundations with a track record for supporting successful work can increase the overall commitment to joint projects and Read more

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Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders

This report argues that more money needs to go towards grassroots organizing and advocacy for the environment and climate change movements to regain momentum and win important legislative and regulatory battles. Environment and climate funders can become effective resources of a strong and successful movement for change by decreasing their reliance on national advocacy groups and increasing funding for grassroots communities that are directly impacted by environmental harms.

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Developing Foundation-University-Grantee Collaboratives as a Model for High-Impact Philanthropy

This article reports on results from the Weingart Foundation’s Urban School Districts Reform Initiative. The goal of the initiative was to improve urban education, and ultimately raise student achievement, by supporting sustainable reforms in school districts educating high numbers of low-income students. The Weingart Foundation determined the scale and scope of the effort, and set forth specific goals and timelines; the districts were invited to propose projects that were organic and integrated into their own strategic plans. Based on research conducted by an intermediary, potential grantees were identified; six grantees were interviewed about their strategic plan priorities and four were Read more

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Disaster Giving

Disaster philanthropy is the term used when a foundation responds to a natural disaster, man-made emergency or complex humanitarian crisis with grantmaking or fund raising. Ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, leaders in the philanthropic community have become more aware of the importance of this approach to giving. What follows are the stories of three Minnesota organizations that’ve made the foray into disaster philanthropy. What have they learned from their experiences? And how can this approach help every foundation do a better job of delivering on its core mission?

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Discovery 2015

Through Discovery, stakeholders across Connecticut have been encouraged to analyze, organize, reflect and act on behalf of young children. This process encourages us to learn, apply the lessons, and assess our effectiveness as we strive to support the success of all children. Sharing the stories of learning that take place across Discovery helps to build networks of people working and learning together across the state.

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Embedded Philanthropy and the Pursuit of Civic Engagement

This article examines a range of civic engagement strategies pursued by embedded funders conducting community-change work in chronically disadvantaged communities. Embedded funders are place-based foundations that (1) commit to working in a particular community or communities over an extended period of time; (2) pursue direct and ongoing relationships with a range of community actors; (3) make community relationships and partnerships a primary vehicle of their philanthropic operation; and (4) provide extensive supports and resources beyond conventional grantmaking. Working as an embedded funder tends either to correlate with a prior commitment to civic engagement or to promote the development of such Read more

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Enrolling the Eligible: Lessons for Funders

Many social programs have a gap between the number of individuals eligible for services and the number enrolled. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation implemented Covering Kids & Families to increase enrollment in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Grantees sought to increase enrollment by raising awareness among low-income families, simplifying the application process, and coordinating among programs. Funders are encouraged to consider the lifecycle of programs and organizations, the skills in coalition-building and working with public officials that are needed, and the need to fit political strategies with the local culture.

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Evaluating a Voter Outreach Initiative

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

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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

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Freedom Funders: Philanthropy and the Civil Rights Movement

This resource includes three approaches that today’s foundations can learn from the Freedom Funders in our ongoing fight to protect civil rights: Grantmakers should intentionally prioritize underserved communities in developing and implementing strategy. They should involve those most affected by injustice, such as by funding organizations committed to grassroots organizing and advocacy. They should utilize tools such as equity analysis to examine structural barriers that keep certain communities from equal life opportunities. Anything less and foundations risk reinforcing the very inequities they claim to address.

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Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change

This report outlines compelling demographic, aesthetic and economic reasons for foundations to rethink their grantmaking practices to stay current with changes in the cultural sector and to continue to be relevant to the evolving needs of our communities. Regardless of its history or primary philanthropic focus, every foundation investing in the arts can make fairness and equity core principles of its grantmaking.

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Healthy Communities of Opportunity: An Equity Blueprint to Address America’s Housing Challenges

This research paper by PolicyLink, with Kresge support, examines how housing and development policies affect economic opportunity and community health, reviews recent trends that have increased housing insecurity, surveys practices that link health and housing opportunity, and suggests a reform agenda for policy changes.

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Helping Government Agencies Become More Effective and Efficient: Discovering ‘Catalytic Combinations’ in Public Child Welfare Reform

This article describes work of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Casey Strategic Consulting Group (CSCG), a 10-year, multistate initiative that embeds outside experts – both public-system and traditional management consulting – in child and family services systems to improve system performance and outcomes. The article describes five types of levers that were influenced in different combinations to promote change in different state systems. We call these “catalytic combinations.” In numerous states, including Maine, Louisiana, Virginia, and Indiana, the CSCG initiative produced measurable improvements in key performance areas, including shortening stays in foster care, improving rates of permanent placements for children Read more

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High Impact Giving Guide

This guide is designed to help donors make a bigger difference with their philanthropic gifts. CHIP’s analysts have handpicked 14 distinct opportunities that you can act on immediately. We’ve organized the nonprofit profiles in this guide into three social cause areas donors have always cared about: health, poverty, and education. We’ve also updated our Disaster Relief guide, highlighting how to help in the wake of multiple recent disasters.

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Ideas 42 Report: Nudging for Student Success

Breaking Barriers to Postsecondary Education:  Ideas 42 issued a report in June 2016, sponsored in part by The Kresge Foundation, that presented 16 case studies based on behavioral science that shows how subtle, sometimes hidden barriers can, over time, result in a student not completing a postsecondary degree.

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International Programming, Local Development, and Youth: An Experience in Northeast Brazil

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded a 10-year program of local development work in selected geographic areas in Northeast Brazil from 1997 – 2007. This article reports on program achievements and difficulties, and examines the ways in which the practices of the foundation facilitated and obstructed advances in the local development initiatives. Two main strategies were used: direct funding granted to organizations in the targeted regions and the creation of a comprehensive support system (e.g., youth projects funds, capacity-building in leadership and evaluation, and transfer of expertise from organizations). A team of foundation staff and consultants worked closely to create “learning Read more

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Invest in a Strong Start for Children: A Toolkit for Donors

New evidence from neuroscience, social science, high-level policy efforts, and growing concern among business, military, and other civic leaders has generated vast amounts of information and potentially useful guidance. We developed this web-based “toolkit” to help funders cut through the noise. You’ll find key facts, strategies for investment, high impact opportunities, and partners that any funder interested in early childhood should know.  

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Investigating the Roles of Community Foundations in the Establishment and Sustainability of Local College Access Networks in Michigan

This article uses the collective-impact model as a framework to examine the role of community foundations in the creation and establishment of local college access networks across the state of Michigan. The findings illustrate that community foundations have played a variety of roles, from fundraising to convening to cheerleading. The challenge for most communities is how to develop a plan for sustainability while allowing others to provide leadership for these evolving organizations for social change.

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Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy

Support for disaster risk reduction and preparedness can mitigate the impact of disasters, and many communities need sustained funding for the long road to recovery. We hope this analysis will aid donors in considering how to maximize the impact of their disaster-related giving.

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New Voices at the Civic Table: Facilitating Personal and Social Change

This article describes six pilot initiatives of the Alliance for Children and Families — New Voices at the Civic Table (New Voices), a philanthropy-funded effort to challenge human service organizations to integrate civic engagement as a permanent part of their infrastructure. All six New Voices models included common elements: leadership training, civic education, experiential learning, participatory decision-making, networking, and reflective evaluation. Each also reflected one of four primary variations to civic engagement based on their community needs and demands: self-efficacy, constituent involvement, mobilizing, and organizing. Results demonstrate that civic engagement in human services not only produces a means for promoting Read more

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Philanthropy in the Faith Community: Mobilizing Faith-Based Organizations for Substance Use Prevention

This reflective practice article examines lessons learned from community-based substance abuse prevention efforts in the faith community and describes how those lessons will shape the work of the Assistance for Substance Abuse Prevention Center. The article also introduces the Faith-Based Prevention Toolkit developed to help members of faith community implement and sustain substance abuse prevention activities in their congregations. The authors hope that other foundations will incorporate the lessons into their work in the faith community.

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Professional Societies and Climate Change

This report gives an analysis of how urban-focused professional societies are integrating climate change into their member engagement activities.  

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Report: Community-Driven Resilience Planning

The following framework: 1) advocates deepening democratic practices at the local and regional levels, 2) seeks to put forth the principles and practices defining this emergent field, and 3) outlines resources for community-based institutions implementing community-driven planning processes. While the primary audience for this framework are community-based organizations developing, advocating for, and implementing climate solutions, we hope it will also be useful to philanthropic institutions that are developing funding strategies to tackle the climate change crisis, as well as to public sector officials charged with protecting our cities from the unpredictability of climate disruption.

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnerships

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnerships provides matching grants for innovative community-based projects aimed at improving the health and health care of underserved and vulnerable populations. The premise underlying Local Funding Partnerships has remained constant over its 25 years—by collaborating with local funders instead of acting alone, RWJF could improve the health and health care of Americans, while getting a larger return on its investment.

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School Turnaround Field Guide

This report offers a field assessment of actors, issues, key gaps and early lessons learned in turning around our failing schools. The full report and an executive summary are available, as well as a brief developed for the School Improvement conference held in January 2010.

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Smarter Grantmaking in Action: Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City

This GEO blog post shows how the development of the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy has allowed the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City to see more authentic and effective collaboration as well as stronger connections and relationships.

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Social Impact Bonds: Analysis of a Mechanism for Financing Social Program Expansions

A research team at McKinsey & Co. studied the potential of social impact bonds in the United States, in particular for financing the expansion of proven programs in homelessness and crime prevention. The team also created tools for stakeholders—investors, nonprofits, government agencies, and others—to help them determine whether SIBs are instruments they should consider.

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Stewarding wealth for the common good: how an Asian family office incorporated climate change mitigation into its portfolio

‘From an Asian perspective, climate change is not a distant threat – it is happening today. I want to make sure that the way my capital is invested is part of the solution and not the problem.’ So says Annie Chen, founder of RS Group, a Hong Kong-based family office. Air pollution in Beijing, bushfires in Australia and typhoons in the Philippines underline her remarks. Consequently, RS Group incorporates climate change considerations in all its activities and across asset classes, with the dual goal of contributing to climate change mitigation and ensuring its investment portfolio is fit for the future.

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Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in the Gulf/Midsouth Region

This report looks at how 20 nonprofits in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi and their allies helped improved their communities and amplified the voices of underserved residents in the democratic process through policy engagement. These nonprofits leveraged foundation grants that generated a $114 return for every dollar spent.

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Strengthening the Human Services Sector

The Kresge Foundation held a symposium with leaders of national networks and umbrella human services nonprofits on April 4, 2014, at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. The goals of the symposium were to: 1. Identify the major challenges and issues in the current environment that affect the capacity of human services organizations and networks to effectively deliver services. 2. Provide an opportunity for human services leaders to share knowledge and expertise with peers while forming new relationships and partnerships. 3. Develop actionable recommendations to assist in the transformation of the human services sector. This document distills the themes of Read more

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Teen Philanthropy Cafe

This series introduces young people to strategic, thoughtful philanthropy, and inspires them toward giving with impact. Families and adults who work with youth can use these guides to facilitate peer discussions and fun activities around giving.  

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The Colorado Trust’s Healthy Communities Initiative: Results and Lessons for Comprehensive Community Initiatives

Key points: This article summarizes how 29 diverse communities throughout Colorado implemented the Colorado Healthy Communities Initiative (CHCI), which was conceived and funded by The Colorado Trust to engage community residents in the development of locally relevant strategies to improve community health. In line with the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities model, CHCI emphasized (a) inclusive, representative planning; (b) a broad definition of “health”; (c) consensus decision making; and (d) capacity building among local stakeholder groups. Communities implemented an array of projects (on average, six per community) that extended well beyond traditional health promotion and disease prevention. The most common Read more

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

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

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The Pros and Cons of Comprehensive Community Initiatives at the City Level: The Case of the Urban Health Initiative

This article describes the trade-offs between the city-level and neighborhood-based approaches in examining the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF’s) Urban Health Initiative (UHI), an $80 million, 10-year effort to improve the health and safety of young people. Eight cities engaged in a two-year planning process; five received funding for an eight-year implementation phase. Plans that engaged in bottom-up activities, but left power and control in the hands of civic, business, social service, and political leaders, were favored. Those who had focused exclusively on neighborhood-based approaches were not funded for implementation. RWJF chose a city-level focus because they believed neighborhood-level initiatives Read more

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

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

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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

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The Role of the Congregation in Community Service: A Philanthropic Case Study

In this article, an initial evaluation of the Family Leadership Initiative, part of the larger Gatherings of Hope Initiative, a collaboratively designed program to strengthen families and improve children’s education in Grand Rapids, Mich., shows high levels of satisfaction, with students reporting some academic improvements. For the congregations, FLI provided a rare opportunity to collaborate with each other.  

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The Social and Economic Impacts of Healthy Food Financing

Launched in July 2011 by a broad coalition of public and private partners led by the California Endowment, the $273 million California FreshWorks program provides loans and grants to grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other food retailers that offer nutritious, affordable food options in communities where such options are scarce. In order to better understand the California FreshWorks program’s food access, social, and economic impact to date, the California Endowment commissioned the first-ever third-party evaluation of the program. The evaluation also sought to document key challenges and lessons from the development and implementation of FreshWorks.  

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The Trenton Afterschool Partnership: Expanding Learning Time Citywide Through Public/Private Collaboration

High quality after-school programs have been demonstrated to have significant impact on student performance. Preceding the Trenton Afterschool Partnership (TAP) was a hodgepodge of programs that cost various contributors about $9 million. These programs, of unequal quality, served about 1,500 students in 15 out of Trenton’s 21 public schools. TAP (which includes the Princeton Area Community Foundation) was able to successfully implement programs in all of the Trenton schools. Budget cuts have forced the reduction of the programs, but about half of the schools have been able to maintain programs. Foundations are encouraged to support advocacy capacity and to provide Read more

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The Value of Community Philanthropy: Results of a Consultation

This report explores ways to stimulate and develop community philanthropy as a means of contributing to the sustainability of civil society and supporting the effectiveness of development aid.  

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Too Good to be True? The Opportunity and Cost of the $1 Building

This report reflects on 17 arts organizations’ experiences with $1 buildings. It shares their lessons about how best to assess, prepare for, and structure these opportunities in order to achieve positive outcomes for arts and cultural organizations, funders, and communities.

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Tools to Support Public Policy Grantmaking

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

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Towards Transformative Change in Health Care

This report offers two high impact strategies for grantmakers to more effectively achieve their missions and help address disparate health outcomes resulting from unequal opportunities.

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Two Decades in Investment in Substance-Use Prevention and Treatment

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) worked to reduce harm from alcohol and other drugs in the United States for over two decades—an investment of nearly $700 million. This retrospective analysis, part of the RWJF Retrospective Series, assesses RWJF’s investment, what was achieved through its efforts, and the strengths and challenges of the Foundation’s approach.

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Ukraine: foundations, the crisis and the future

Since the explosion of popular protest in Maidan Square, Ukraine has been riven by civil and political strife whose character and shape is often as difficult to discern as its eventual outcome. In this supercharged atmosphere of political protest and martial posturing, what have foundations been doing to help those caught up in events or struggling to reshape their country?

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

This article examines one community’s effort to use a large-scale civic engagement process to improve the health, safety, and education of children. In doing so, it describes the challenges that foundations can face in trying to sustain a cross-sector collaborative process while working to produce highly visible outcomes in a relatively short period of time. The findings from this study illustrate important lessons for foundations that are funding and leading cross-sector collaborative efforts – lessons related to the importance of communication and transparency, the need for shared leadership, the limits to voluntary collaboration, and the need for a sustainable structure Read more

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What can philanthropy do for Syria?

The war in Syria is now in its fourth year. It has cost over 200,000 lives, put 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside the country (USAID) and displaced 10 million, more than 3 million of whom have fled abroad as refugees. All of this has earned Syria a number of unappealing superlatives: ‘the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era’ (UNHCR); the creator of the ‘worst refugee crisis since the second world war’ (The Economist); and the world’s ‘worst crisis for children’ (UN). With a few notable exceptions, however, western philanthropists have not engaged in Syria.

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Why do dictators lock up the poets first?

Why should philanthropists fund the arts? Some have argued that as art is of lesser importance than basics like food, shelter, health and so forth, there is no justification for funding art until world hunger is solved. How then can one justify spending on so-called high arts? Can the arts be seen as effective tools to bring about personal and social change? Is art transformative? Our subject for this Alliance special feature is philanthropy’s attitudes to and role in funding ‘arts and social change’.

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