This blog post lists five key Do’s and five key Don’ts for foundations and donors to have the greatest impact in the communities they serve.
This blog post lists five key Do’s and five key Don’ts for foundations and donors to have the greatest impact in the communities they serve.
This resource shows how foundations can be potential partners in making public policy.
A collaborative study from Bolder Giving and WiserGiving, America’s Giving Style analyzes the strategies and approaches that donors use to solve complex problems through their charitable giving. Most donors are focused on fixing immediate problems but typically will use a combination of strategies to effect long term, sustainable change. Furthermore, most sophisticated donors try to align their giving with their beliefs, though for many their current giving habits do not match their ideals and ambitions.
This report illustrates the ways in which limited life foundations approach spending down in nine key areas, including investing, grantmaking and strategy, and communications. The results show that most leaders of limited life foundations choose to spend down because of the belief that it will lead to greater impact. And though these foundations’ leaders wrestle with a similar set of issues in their work, the interviews revealed that there is no one way to spend down.
This article argues that philanthropic endeavors should be undergirded by a theory of philanthropy. Articulating a theory of philanthropy is a way for a foundation to make explicit what is often only implicit, thereby enabling internal and external actors to pose and resolve significant questions, understand and play important roles more fully and effectively, and improve performance by enhancing alignment across complex systems. A theory of philanthropy articulates how and why a foundation will use its resources to achieve its mission and vision. The theory-of-philanthropy approach is designed to help foundations align their strategies, governance, operating and accountability procedures, and Read more
The Framework for Delivering Education Programs in Your Regional Association represents a synthesis of recommendations made by more than 60 practitioners and thought leaders in the field. It describes ten principles and corresponding practices that contribute to a grantmaking organization’s effectiveness and that can be used to strengthen philanthropy education across the sector.
The growing quantity of giving has not been matched by improved quality. The growth in the quantity of new philanthropy and the search for more effective philanthropy has now produced a “significant moment in the marketization of philanthropy.” A recent outpouring of books by foundation officials, consultants and academics has broadly emphasized the idea that “strategic philanthropy” in some form promises significant improvements. With these books, then, do donors, family foundations, and philanthropy generally have new usable knowledge to meet the challenge of quality grantmaking?
Why are so few market-based solutions to poverty getting to scale? What can be done so that they can deliver meaningful benefits to the poor? These are the questions raised by the recently released Monitor Inclusive Markets report Beyond the Pioneer. Its findings are in turn examined by the June 2014 Alliance special feature.
A program-related investment (PRI) is a type of mission or social investment that foundations make in order to achieve their philanthropic goals. This article answers frequently asked questions about PRIs.
The recently released Monitor Deloitte report Beyond the Pioneer examines why so few market-based solutions to poverty are getting to scale and what can be done so that they can deliver meaningful benefits to the poor. Based on research spanning Asia and Africa, the report’s main finding is that many of the barriers to scale cannot or will not be addressed effectively by any individual firm. What is needed is external support in the form of market facilitators that can remove these barriers at an ecosystem level.Our own experience at Artha Networks Inc (ANI) over the last ten years, helping to build Read more
“Strategic philanthropy” has become a dominant theme among foundations in the past few decades. While many foundations have developed strategic plans, few have made the internal changes necessary to actually behave strategically. Four challenges to strategic philanthropy are identified, including strategies developed in isolation from grantees that execute them and misaligned foundation structures, processes, and cultures that do not support strategic endeavors. In order to get beyond the veneer of strategic philanthropy, foundation leaders need to be clearer about their own role in creating change, develop the strategic capacities to do so, and then apply those capacities, learn from them, Read more
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.
Many social enterprises focus on measuring the success of individual grants and nonprofit initiatives. This traditional approach to measuring results neglects the reality that no single organization alone can solve the scale of today’s social challenges. This research highlights 20 social enterprises that developed innovative and coordinated web-based approaches to evaluate their impact across multiple grants and stakeholders.
Systems that provide services to children tend to operate in silos; foundations can play a role in helping bridge these silos by supporting “systems building” efforts. Using examples from two foundations and two communities, this article explores the challenges and lessons learned in systems building work. Educating grantees and other community members about systems and systems building is a critical first step in the process. Supporting systems building requires an iterative process and foundations should continuously reinforce the importance of systems building activities.
Increasingly, the practice of grantmaking as a tool for bringing about social change has fallen out of favour, replaced by newer, snappier-sounding forms of philanthropy. In laying out their wares, venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy, philanthrocapitalism and, most recently, ‘catalytic philanthropy’ have all made claims for greater effectiveness. This change has been largely driven by outsiders, for example by business people entering the sector or by consultants. However, there has also been introspection within established grantmaking platforms and networks about the significance and purpose of grantmaking. For example, a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference of the African Grantmakers Network worried Read more
This paper defines a field, provides examples of how funders build fields, lists the elements of a strong field, and discusses effective donor practices to promote sustainable fields. The paper concludes with questions that can help to assess field strengths and needs, and a discussion of the best time to exit a field.
A collection of peer-to-peer resources focusing on work being done to strengthen communities. Includes community foundation models, and civic and community capacity resources.
This publication is focused on building an organization’s collaboration muscles. It offers guidance on steps grantmakers and nonprofits can take to adopt a “collaborative mindset” and align values and practice so they can be better partners in collaboration. It is based on research and interviews with grantmakers, nonprofit leaders, technical assistance providers and thought leaders from 2013 through 2015.
Networks have historically played an essential role in promoting progress in areas such as social justice, political reform, environmental protection, and public health. Foundations are increasingly recognizing the power of networks and looking for strategies to help networks achieve their potential. The most common strategies are: a) convene a new network around a mission in line with the foundation’s interests, or b) make grants to an existing network whose interests align with the foundation’s. Each strategy has practical limitations. This paper analyzes an alternative strategy developed by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (MRBF). In addition to providing networks with grants, Read more
This publication presents the work of the Capital & Collaboration Initiative, a cross-sector effort designed to increase the scale, efficiency and impact of investments in Massachusetts cities of more than 35,000 people (excluding Boston.) The initiative has identified several cross-cutting priority areas for action that are important to achieving their broader goal of transformative change.
GEO and Monitor Institute partnered to release Catalyzing Networks for Social Change, to explore what it takes for grantmakers to cultivate a network mindset, offer recommendations for how funders can effectively build the capacity of networks and identify five network approaches that are helping grantmakers and social change makers to harness the power of networks.
This article examines The Skillman Foundation’s efforts to add value to its work through “changemaking,” which encompasses roles and practices beyond grantmaking through which a foundation advances its goals – and offers 10 lessons for grantmakers that want to assume a changemaking role. This approach draws upon and leverages the Foundation’s knowledge, networks and civic reputation to supplement its grantmaking investments. Changemaking also required the Foundation to build new strategic competencies such as working across traditionally siloed grantmaking programs, adding evaluation and learning staff, and increasing communication and alignment between board and staff. (The Skillman Foundation is pleased to share Read more
Foundations have begun to recognize that how they go about their work is as important as what they support. To be better armed to address the urgent challenges facing Detroit’s children, the Skillman Foundation has adopted a changemaking role that draws upon and leverages its knowledge, networks, and civic reputation to supplement its grantmaking investments. Effective changemaking depends on the accrual of trust and respect that is built over time in relationships with community residents and stakeholders, public and private partners, and others with influence and resources. Changemaking required the foundation to build new strategic competencies such as working across Read more
Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.
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.
Mission Investors Exchange and the Council on Foundations are thrilled to welcome you to the Community Foundation Field Guide to Impact Investing: Reflections from the Field and Resources for Moving Forward. You will discover all the resources and connections that it has to offer community foundations interested in learning about, designing, and activating an impact investing program.
Community investment in the U.S. is one of the most robust impact-investing sectors in the world. With support from public policy and subsidies from public and philanthropic sources, private capital flows to community investment from foundations, banks and insurance companies, individuals and others in the form of loans, bonds, tax-credit equity and structured investment vehicles. Often, CI involves specialized intermediaries skilled at working with marginalized communities and blending multiple sources of funding. But practitioners frequently describe CI as working against, or around, the conventional finance system. It targets underserved people and places – where conventional markets are seen as absent, Read more
When it comes to making change through impact investing, the community engagement process is crucial to the financial as well as social performance of your investments. Lisa Richter will moderate another lively conversation in this series to share how impact investing organizations serving rural communities are engaging residents and organizations as partners, including through: leadership development community surveys partnerships with grassroots organizations and government member-owned institutions, and technology-driven communications In this webinar, panelists discussed specific investment examples how these tools have enhanced traditional technical assistance and why the approaches must vary from one community to another, where diverse populations, unique Read more
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
Despite conversations about the importance of community collaboration, foundations continue to struggle with how to best frame and support collaborative success. Existing tools to assess collaboration may not fit with either a foundation’s values or a specific program strategy. From a foundation perspective, developing a community self-assessment tool reinforced the idea that collaborative functioning is crucial and deserves attention. This article shares a story of the development and initial use of the Discovery Community Self-Assessment Tool as a process of social construction critical to collective action and a possible indicator of network learning.
“Conversations with Remarkable Givers” is a groundbreaking, free video series of frank and candid conversations with more than 60 remarkable, results-oriented philanthropists, providing unprecedented access to their strategic thinking, insights, and wisdom.
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
Creating shared value involves value creation for business that simultaneously yields more profit and greater social impact, resulting in powerful transformations and opportunities for growth and innovation in both business and society. The concept of creating shared value focuses on the connections between societal and economic progress, and has the potential to unleash the next wave of global growth and competitive advantage.
A comprehensive look at giving. Who gives, how much, where to, and why. Sprinkled with statistics and analysis, powerful individual stories describe giving outside the lines. Writers talk about giving money unconventionally, seeking ways to give, and seeking gift recipients by their own rules, not according to established giving norms. Some giving alleviates the loneliness often endemic to inheritors. Others seek to share the joy in giving. Models for giving beyond that which supports culture, arts, education and policy institutions that serve the donors lifestyle. Compare your giving habits: amounts, causes, mechanisms, and goals.
Idealware is proud to announce the release of our latest report, Data at a Foundation’s Fingertips: Creating and Building Dashboards. Technology Affinity Group (TAG) commissioned us for this report on how foundations use dashboards, which combines insights from conversations with 10 different foundations–including previous research on methods for thinking about data-based decision making–to offer a step-by-step process to design and create your own dashboard. To help you learn from the experiences of those foundations that have gone before you, we also included eight detailed case studies of foundations that have created their own dashboards and what into the design and Read more
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
Funders use technical assistance (TA) to expand organizations’ capacity, identify solutions to problems, and develop strategies for long-term change. In this article, the authors document considerations for funders in developing strong TA programs, based on their evaluations of two state-based TA programs.
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
The Dimension of Change Model (DOCM), developed by the authors, is offered as a potentially useful tool for foundations, government, bodies, consultants, coalitions, and even individual organizations that are initiating or engaged in substantive efforts to bring about community change. The dimensions contained in the model – structure, parameters, intention, approach, and people – offer a frame for addressing key aspects that emerge from the literature as fundamental to all change efforts. The model is offered as a way to design, implement, adapt, and evaluate change initiatives. The work of First 5 Marin Children and Families Commission in Marin County Read more
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 have 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?
Traditional philanthropy is no antidote to the complex problems that challenge our world today. Donors must go beyond check-writing to proactively catalyze change using a variety of tools and practices. Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World, features the stories of foundations and individuals who transcend traditional philanthropy, and illuminates the six catalytic practices that all donors can employ to achieve greater impact.This book provides a blueprint for foundation leaders, trustees, and individual donors who want to catalyze change in the world.
Too often, it’s not the academics that bring down a charter school; it’s the building. Together with Civic Builders, hedge fund manager Brian Olson is offering leases to charter schools—under one condition.
With an innovative sabbatical program for nonprofit leaders, Carrie Avery is translating her grandfather’s values into the third generation of family involvement with Durfee.
Pam Omidyar’s philanthropic work—including founding or co-founding with her husband, Pierre, the Omidyar Network, Hope Lab, and Humanity United—demonstrates how she has translated her passions into social change. Includes: International philanthropy, Microfinance, Medical philanthropy.
What would you do with one billion dollars? Jennifer and Peter Buffett were faced with this extraordinary challenge and opportunity.
This white paper defines mission investing strategies, including: socially responsible investing (SRI); environmental, social, and governance (ESG); mission-related investing (MRI); and impact investing. Readers will also learn more about a nine-point impact investing roadmap with questions to help develop your foundation’s investment strategy.
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
This actionable guide to impact investing will help those new to the field get started. It includes definitions, key questions to consider, resources, and case examples from small foundations across asset classes and issue areas. This guide was produced in partnership with Mission Investors Exchange and Arabella Advisors.
Organizational advocacy capacity is an increasingly important area of inquiry, raising questions about the opportunities (and limits) for achieving and sustaining policy change. The California Endowment implemented the Clinic Consortia Policy and Advocacy Program to expand grantee advocacy capacity to support the policy and operational needs of California’s community clinics. In-person meetings with decision-makers and developing working relationships were among the key advocacy activities undertaken by 19 grantees. Grantees secured several policy wins through a variety of strategies, including mobilizing member clinics to be potent advocates. The “return on investment analysis” indicates that grantees secured policymaker support for clinic programs Read more
By Dara Major, Principal, Dara Major Philanthropy Consulting Over the last century or so of philanthropic practice, multiple pathways for achieving results have emerged. Two of the most widely adopted (and most recently debated) are “strategic” and “emergent” philanthropy. Both have deep roots in the field, as well as a range of adherents and even skeptics. Other approaches in various stages of experimentation, adoption, or rejection include “philanthrocapitalism,” and “venture,” “catalytic,” and “high engagement” philanthropy. What’s a grantmaker to do? Which approach, hybrid, or combination of approaches is right for you/ your program or initiative / your organization? How can Read more
The Council of Michigan Foundations sets aside a section of its website to provide descriptions and videos from a variety of Family Foundation Events. There are examples of networking opportunites and educational programs for family foundations. Event highlights and links for more information are offered for further exploration.
During its time-limited lifespan, the Beldon Fund sought to maximize its impact with focused investments in environmental advocacy and health. The Fund pursued three unique but interrelated strategies to advance positive change on the issues it cared about: 1) Build capacity and clout, 2) Support civic engagement, 3) Broaden the base of support. A fourth strategy, Giving more than grants, supplemented the three main strategies. To pursue these strategies, the Beldon Fund developed two program areas through which it made long-term grants: 1) the Key States Program, which invested in building long-term sustainable infrastructure, capacity, and tools in a limited Read more
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
This blog post is for foundations that are new or transitioning. It asks five important questions that can be used to help decide which course of action your foundation will take. These include: Is a foundation the best charitable-giving vehicle for us? What do we want to accomplish? How will we continue to learn? Who do we need in our network? How will we invest in our own success?
All too often, foundations have failed to institutionalize a process to establish standards of effectiveness and regularly assess themselves in relation to these standards. We draw this conclusion from a series of interviews with 61 foundation leaders (CEOs and board heads) of 42 staffed, grantmaking foundations. These interviews probed foundation leaders’ understanding of effectiveness, the methods they use to judge it, and how they say their foundations have changed or need to change in order to be more effective. As the following discussion shows, what is clearly needed in so many cases is for foundations to articulate specific understandings of effectiveness Read more
Questions about how much U.S. grantmaking foundations spend on staff, trustees, overhead, and other administrative expenses—and how much is appropriate to spend—are at the forefront of current debates on foundation practices. Over the past several years, stories in the media have spotlighted foundations with questionably high compensation and expenses. In turn, this media scrutiny has prompted action by policymakers to address perceived improprieties. In the foundation field, it has sparked widespread discussion at the national and local levels about what constitutes appropriate practice. Missing from these debates has been adequate information about current practices across a wide spectrum of foundations. Read more
Skillman senior program officer Marie Colombo collaborates with independent consultant Prudence Brown and Della M. Hughes of the Center for Youth and Communities at Brandeis University to examine how a foundation prepares and evolves in real time while working toward community change. (The Skillman Foundation is pleased to share this report with the permission of Foundation Review.)
The philanthropic community has been ‘conspicuously absent from the SDG debate’, according to Kevin Watkins of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute, writing in the March 2015 issue of Alliance. However, as he suggests, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will take final shape later this year, are likely to have a significant influence on the environment in which foundations operate. We asked a number of people from different regions why foundations should take the SDGs seriously, and how their influence is likely to make itself felt on their work both domestically and internationally. Their response suggests that, even if they Read more
This GrantCraft leadership series paper produced in partnership with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors explores the core frameworks that shape private foundations, and offers a roadmap for funders interested in reflecting on these frameworks to better align purpose, public benefit, and action.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption was created in 1992 to increase adoptions from foster care in North America. A decade later, the Foundation concluded that it needed to change its philanthropic approach to achieve that goal. In response, the Foundation launched the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids initiative, in partnership with Wendy’s, to implement and evaluate an alternative method to finding families for hard-to-place children. This case study examines the Foundation’s philanthropic strategy to enhancing its effectiveness, identifies lessons that may help other foundations, and draws implications for the respective roles of private and public initiative in addressing major social issues.
This chapter assesses the Foundation’s progress in systems and policy change across four elements: Influence, Champions, Leverage and Scale.
In our experience, developing a philanthropic strategy is an iterative process, regardless of the economic climate. It requires the internal discipline to ask—and rigorously answer—three fundamental questions: How do we define success? What will it take to make change happen? How can we improve our results over time? We think of this process as getting clear, getting real, and getting better. In the following pages we’ll explore how leaders at the James Irvine Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation have wrestled with Read more
Getting real, lasting results from your philanthropic giving requires planning, strategy, realism and partnership. Whether you’re new to philanthropy or farther along, the materials in the Give Smart library can help guide you in your philanthropic journey.
As a foundation with an ambitious policy agenda and limited time frame, Beldon needed to be more than a grantmaker. Beldon founder John Hunting strongly believed that marshaling the foundation’s non-financial resources – its expertise and experience, convening power, influence with other funders, and the capacity to broker relationships among grantees – was key to creating lasting change.
“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
GEO’s publications are driven by the issues we care about. We dive into specific topics and connect themes across the sector in short and longer works. Our publications elevate real examples from your peers, providing innovative ideas to your own organization. We also craft practical tools and friendly guides to help transform your knowledge into action. Our most popular resources: Shaping Culture Through Key Moments Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity The Source Codes of Foundation Culture To see learn more about our publications, explore our resource library. Members greatly value our publications because they lift up the experience, wisdom and insights of Read more
The WHH Foundation, a California based ASF member, has taken a particularly thoughtful approach to engaging its third generation family members, ages 8 to 27. The foundation is managed by a volunteer board led by its founder, and is staffed by part-time executive director and family member, Bernadette Glenn. Recently, ASF spoke with Bernadette and Molly Purnell, age 25, who chairs the foundation’s next generation group. *This content is available for Exponent Philanthropy members only
The following post was originally published on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog as part of a series exploring the meaning and value of strategic philanthropy. Evidence-based philanthropy. To some, that phrase offers the promise of long-overdue rigor. If the first principle of philanthropy and social impact is to do good, then evidence-based philanthropy ensures that we honor its corollary: Do no harm. To others, that phrase represents all that is going wrong with philanthropy and social innovation—the rise of the ivory-tower theorists and technocrats whose logic models and fixation with metrics blind them to real-world knowledge and common sense. It’s time Read more
For donors seeking to improve student outcomes, the critical question is: How can my funds improve teaching quality? This report outlines high impact philanthropic models based on our analysis of available evidence from academic research, expert advice, and practitioner information.
Individuals and foundations can have an impact disproportionate to their resources during a recession by offering a philanthropic lifeline to organizations providing vital community services. Yes, foundation endowments recently have been hard hit and individuals who traditionally give to charity have suffered financial reversals. But many nonprofits in their communities are in truly desperate straits. Philanthropy can seed and reap significant long-term benefits for our communities by acting now.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Philanthropy magazine. An article about applying business principles to philanthropic strategies.
Although many worthy causes exist, you only have limited amounts of time and money to devote to them. Here’s how to make hard choices about your focus.
To be a successful philanthropist, you’ll need to make good decisions about how to spend your money, time and influence. Here’s advice on how to do just that. Three practices will help you stay on track: Measure your grantees’ performance thoughtfully. Request and reflect on data that can inform decision-making. Ask: are my grantees and their programs getting results? How can I help them do better? Ensure your philanthropic strategy is tied to grantee strategies. Ask: Do my grantees’ results contribute to the overall success I am aiming for? Am I clear on how? Take into account external factors. What Read more
(Posted by NFF with permission from Americas Quarterly) The rise of impact investing is not inevitable… Most resources and most investors—whether trustees controlling large assets or individuals with smaller personal accounts—remain locked in a traditional approach that limits the social engagement of market forces and business. At the same time, established policies and regulations, educational opportunities, career paths, capital markets, and language all fail to support their aspirations and practices. In fact, most of the time they get in the way. Realizing the full potential of impact investing requires moving beyond the aggregation of a few inspiring anecdotes to build Read more
This report describes five different foundations’ approaches to measuring the social impact of program-related investments (PRIs). In addition, it reviews three other approaches to measuring the social impact of other impact investments that may be relevant to foundations.
Informs the debate on operating support with new data about current foundation practices, attitudes underlying those practices, and the impact on grantees of foundation choices. The report explores what motivates foundation CEOs in their decision-making, examining the tension between CEOs’ sense of what is best for their foundations and what they believe will make the most positive impact on grantee organizations. In Search of Impact also probes the grantee perspective through an analysis of thousands of survey responses and a set of interviews with nonprofit leaders, revealing the importance of other grant attributes that have been overshadowed in the debate Read more
This paper examines development models that intentionally integrate elements from two or more sectors, the capital challenges inherent in such projects, and the unique role that CDFIs and philanthropy play in overcoming those challenges. This paper focuses on neighborhood-level efforts that go beyond single sector investments that are emerging through partnerships and collaboratives working to deliver community driven solutions. Includes case studies.
The experience of developing, launching, managing, and evaluating Invest Northwest has provided important lessons for the Northwest Area Foundation’s and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s mission investing programs. These lessons are also relevant to impact investors and place-based investors. With the fund coming to a close, this report documents these lessons and reflections, as well as the history of Invest Northwest, the fund’s financial performance, and its strong social performance.
Joel Fleishman, author of The Foundation: A Great American Secret, discusses the crucial role foundations play in fostering social innovation, breaks down the recent trends and misfortunes that shape the nonprofit sector today, and urges foundations to find greater success through greater openness.
In last month’s post we looked at the relevance of boundaries in an increasingly boundary-less world. In this post we describe three especially important organizational boundaries from a systems perspective. The second blog in a series of three. Blog three is entitled: Shifting Organizational Boundaries.
Impact investing is an umbrella concept encompassing several investment tools, including mission related investments (MRIs), program related investments (PRIs), and screening mechanisms for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) priorities. The practice of impact investing is rapidly gaining momentum, but the level of activity among individual and institutional investors, including philanthropists and foundations, has barely penetrated projections of market potential. Foundations are among the most reluctant investors and represent the smallest share of current activity. The academic, nonprofit, Denver-based Impact Finance Center1 (IFC) has established a proof point for creating impact investing “marketplaces” at a statewide scale across all sectors, asset classes, Read more
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
By: Dara Major, Philanthropy Consultant Good content needs a good search – but sometimes a simple keyword search is not enough to produce the result a user seeks. That’s where a taxonomy comes in: a taxonomy is a classification or categorization system that groups similar items into broad topics or buckets. A taxonomy can help to organize knowledge “at a glance,” describe concepts not found directly in the content, and includes terms, categories and keywords. LearnPhilanthropy has developed a Real Simple Taxonomy, created with extensive testing and feedback at each stage (and ongoing) by dozens of grantmakers and others across Read more
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
As foundations struggle with reduced assets in a still declining economy, what are the considerations regarding the current state of foundations and charitable life span? With a range of strategies to consider, how should foundations approach their asset base? Publications by panelist Francie Ostrower and Arthur Schmidt will frame the discussion.
This study takes a close look at four Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG) funder cooperative groups that range in style from the relatively simple to the complex. The unique lens of the research is local donor collaboration as seen by the participants and staff themselves. In particular, the research explores three key issues: how local cooperatives begin, what makes them effective and sustainable over time, and the unique role that a regional association can play in furthering funder collaboration.
This article by Clara Miller looks at the rules of money and finance that govern the nonprofit sector in comparison to those in the for-profit sector. Test your knowledge of nonprofit finance – and the contortions that tie nonprofits up in knots.
In September 2013, the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) and GrantCraft, a service of Foundation Center, partnered to tell the story of how the ACBP began spending down. There are few stories of foundation spending down—that is, spending all of a foundation’s endowment deliberately with the intent of closing—that have been publicly told, and none to our knowledge using a primary medium of a blog series. ACBP’s goal was to build on GrantCraft’s strength of sharing funder wisdom by highlighting more than 20 voices connected with the spend down over the 28-month period until it closed its doors. Both organizations value transparency, and so periodic blogs felt Read more
Identifies seven challenges in grantmaking, as well as the practices and skills that can help you meet them: Planning My Work, Organizing for Impact, Working with Grantees, Finding Allies, Making the Grant, Understanding My Role, Leading on the Inside.
The “Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing,” report researched and drafted by The Giving Practice’s Senior Partner Jan Jaffe, charts the journey from the time the Surdna Foundation board of directors and staff began exploring impact investing in 2014 to the decision-making process and experience of implementing impact investing policies. “The Surdna Foundation’s founder, John E. Andrus was committed to inclusion, social justice and sustainability,” said Peter Benedict II, Surdna Foundation’s board chair. “By sharing our experience and some of the lessons we learned in this report this centennial year, we will contribute to collective learning in the fields of Read more
Immerse yourself in a comprehensive learning experience, and fuel your passion for grantmaking and private philanthropy. Faculty members and guest speakers from across the philanthropic community help you to learn how to give wisely. Explore a variety of funding approaches through presentations, discussions, graded assignments, and problem-solving exercises for groups and individuals. If you are an independent philanthropist, a member of a philanthropic family, or a professional grantmaker with just a few years of experience in grantmaking, this intensive is designed for you.
Since the end of the Great Recession, almost 12 million jobs have been created — but most have been in low-wage occupations and at places like strip malls and fast-food restaurants. Average wages for working Americans have dropped 23 percent. It’s become clear that job creation does not equate to lasting economic change. In order to reverse the troubling trends we’re seeing, we no longer find it defensible to focus on job creation alone. We must shift our focus to the creation of higher quality jobs that are good for workers and their families, good for businesses, and good for communities. Through a better understanding of Read more
How can we understand the activity of Michigan community foundations in the context of their local populations? How have Michigan community foundations changed over time? This report begins to explore answers to these two questions, building on a decade of work by the Council of Michigan Foundations and their annual Community Foundation Data Book to offer new insight into community philanthropy across the state. Combining both longitudinal and contextual population data, this report offers new ways to think about community foundation growth and alternative benchmarks for individual community foundation trustees and executive leaders to use in planning and evaluation.
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
Since 2006, Nonprofit Finance Fund Capital Partners has supported 18 campaigns for philanthropic equity, totaling $326 million in financial investments. This report analyzes the role of philanthropic equity in the nonprofit sector, results generated to-date by philanthropic equity investments, and key challenges to developing a robust capital marketplace for philanthropic equity. The Role of Philanthropic Equity in the Nonprofit Sector: Many nonprofits with strong programs and great results fail to thrive. One reason is the way the sector is currently financed. Nonprofits are rewarded for keeping margins tight, and few have access to the type of capital needed to explore Read more
This report evaluates how The Skillman Foundation’s work practices and culture, and its relationship with its core intermediaries, supports the Foundation’s aspiration to be a high-performance learning organization.
If you are involved in a collective effort to address a large-scale social challenge and are wondering how companies could play a meaningful role, this handbook is for you. It is a companion to ENGAGE: How Funders Can Support and Leverage Networks for Social Impact, a resource for philanthropic funders considering whether a social impact network might be the right investment; and if so, what kind of network to engage with, and what role to play. Building on that guidance, this handbook focuses on the particular models for building social impact networks that engage the private sector. Why would a Read more
Stereotype-busting profiles of rich people who share power and resources and work passionately for the common good. One writer describes becoming a successful businessman specifically so that he would have more money to give away. Others describe the process of donating money and resisting the temptation to become controlling or patronizing of those who receive the resources. Alternative formats for foundations and finding grantors are detailed. Writers describe including spouses as partners, learning activism (or teaching activism) to their partners. A family confronts its political polarity, finding acceptable middle ground on which to invest millions of dollars in an inner-city.
Since 2010, through the Scaling What Works initiative, GEO has fostered a conversation about scale that considers a variety of ways nonprofits are creating more value for communities and how funders are supporting their work. Pathways to Grow Impact shares new learning about the role grantmakers should play. The publication is the result of a collaborative project with Ashoka, Social Impact Exchange, Taproot Foundation and TCC Group that sought to answer the question: How can grantmakers best support high-performing nonprofits in their efforts to grow their impact? Pathways to Grow Impact is for any grantmaker who wants his or her Read more
Impact investing has become a hot topic among donors and financial investors alike. But what does it mean, and why might you consider it as a philanthropic option? Broadly defined, impact investing means investing capital to generate social impact in a way that also provides monetary returns. These returns may vary from the initial principal amount upward (or, potentially, downward), depending on the nature of the investment.
Philanthropy scholarship has the potential to inform practice and policy so that societal wellbeing is enhanced and positive change achieved. How can we make this happen? This special feature suggests two possibilities and also documents some successful experiences of knowledge transfer that may serve as prototypes for bridging the divide.
Many foundations have substituted process accountability for accountability for contributing to social change. While process accountability is important, it sets a floor, not an aspirational ceiling. There are tools—such as risk analysis, systems approaches, and game theory—that can help philanthropy engage in work on complex social problems that cannot be deconstructed into a series of small, linear projects. Seeking to extend basic human rights to more individuals around the world, seeking to reduce racism in a given city, or seeking to change public health norms in small town—all of these aspirations require first a willingness to take on challenges that Read more
Families engaged in philanthropy may view their giving through a variety of lenses. Some pay particular attention to the family’s legacy of giving, some focus on a particular issue or cause, and many choose to limit their grantmaking to a specific city, state or region. A growing number of family foundations have taken this commitment to geographic location to another level, and made the strategic decision to engage in place-based philanthropy, dedicating the majority of their giving and personal involvement in a specific community.
Transparency is as much about discovery as disclosure. That’s because the discovery process is how we determine: (1) what we know, (2) what we don’t know, (3) where we stand, and (4) what boundaries, if any, exist for a specific topic. Discovery can be a humbling and inspiring experience. Learning is the payoff for investing.
Most often associated with the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, which pioneered their use, Program Related Investments (PRIs) have become more common as the assets of foundations have increased. From 1998 to 1999, PRI authorizations nationally jumped from $203 million to $267 million—a rise of 31 percent. Still, PRIs represent only a small percentage of foundations’ awards; in 1999, the nation’s 50,000 foundations distributed $23 billion in the form of grants. This chapter explores why a foundation such as Robert Wood Johnson, with more than $8 billion in assets at the time this chapter was prepared, would make a Read more
This guide is designed to help foundations thoughtfully and responsibly plan for a significant ramp up in giving and/or adjust to a sudden infusion of assets. Drawing on the experiences of a number of foundations that have undergone this transition, the primer addresses key considerations for foundation leadership in the areas of governance, staffing and operations, grantmaking and evaluation, investments, and tax and legal arenas.
This article examines success factors that relate specifically to the ability of a comprehensive community initiative (CCI) to achieve the scope and scale required to generate community-level outcomes and to sustain those positive impacts over time. The CCIs selected for study represent a wide range of goals, strategies, and organizational structures. Six factors were found to cut across scope, scale, and sustainability. These factors include having a single broker or entity that holds the vision of the change effort; clearly defined roles; alignment among interventions, resources, and geography; meaningful community engagement; competent leadership and staff; and strategic, cross-level relationships. Additional Read more
The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) examined the perspectives of foundation CEOs and learned that there is much agreement on the audiences for their transparency efforts. Foundation CEOs also agree about what they believe is the most important information to share with those audiences. Foundation CEOs’ views on transparency, which largely match those of grantees, focus on the substance of their work, as opposed to financial disclosures or governance practices. However, foundation practice lags behind CEOs’ beliefs, especially in the area of sharing information about what works. Those who view transparency as unequivocally positive argue that transparency allows foundations to gain Read more
The final post in this three-part series explains how organizations can consciously shift boundaries as their environment changes. Click on these links if you are interested in the first two posts on the importance of boundaries in an increasingly complex world and three key boundaries an organization must define from a systems perspective.
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.
Little is known in the United States about social impact bonds (SIBs), which are relatively complicated and expensive instruments for bringing evidence-based social programs to scale. They require an effective partnering by government, service providers, coordinating intermediaries, and socially conscious investors. 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.
As foundations seek to catalyze broad-based social change, there is a need for greater understanding of what social movements are, how they evolve, and how foundations can support them. Movement building presents unique challenges to foundations. Because movements, by definition, must be driven by the people who are most affected, foundations cannot determine the goals and timetables of a movement. The authors identify five core elements to movement building: organizing an authentic base; leadership; vision and ideas; alliances; and advocacy infrastructure. A framework for evaluating movement building is proposed, which can help foundations identify measureable outcomes and track progress throughout Read more
This publication aims to increase the rigor with which impact investors frame their investment decisions and demonstrate the integration of impact investing across asset classes. In conjunction with the team of academics and practitioners who have produced this monograph, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors highlights some of the areas in which behavioral economics and innovative organizational and legal structures can be applied to the discipline of impact investing. By describing best practices in transparency, disclosure and rigorous decision-making, we also hope to bridge the divide between traditional and social purpose investing.
‘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.
Responses to John Kania, Mark Kramer and Patty Russell’s ‘Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World’, published in the summer issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, have come largely from the US and from people who write regularly about philanthropy. Many of them have focused on the way consultants behave and how they interact with foundations and non-profits – in other words, the philanthropy system. We would like to broaden that debate and in doing so to leave the swimming pool and venture out into the sea.
To solve today’s complex social problems, foundations need to shift from the prevailing model of strategic philanthropy that attempts to predict outcomes to an emergent model that better fits the realities of creating social change in a complex world.
The world is complex and current methods of philanthropy effect lasting change in so few corners. How do we truly begin to make a difference? Including responses from 10 industry leaders, “Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World” explores what it takes to make change in an unpredictable environment.
Moving past generic CSR principles: learn how societal influence is becoming the new frontier of competitive advantage.
In recent years, strategy has been a much discussed topic in philanthropy, while tactics have received little attention. The experience of the MacArthur Foundation’s environmental program and its Moving Spotlight approach provide examples of the importance of tactical decisions. Tactical decisions such as the timing of grants, foundation staffing levels, and the timing of evaluations all contribute to grantees’ ability to achieve outcomes. Structure and flexibility can be complementary approaches to grantmaking if the tactics are well thought out.
In this video from the Community Leadership Video Catalogue, a staff and board team share their perspectives on Spartanburg County Foundation’s transformation from charity to philanthropy.
This article uses the childhood experience of learning how to play Double Dutch jump rope as an allegory to navigating complicated community leadership through civic engagement. There is both an art and a science to deciding when and why to work with a broad base of stakeholders to attempt comprehensive community change. The key lessons are the following: (1) follow the noise and find the excitement, (2) ask questions and get into conversations, (3) set the rules of the game, 4) keep score, 5) get the right equipment and players, 6) know when to jump in and when to jump Read more
Beldon’s decision to establish a clear end date set the course for the foundation’s strategy and operations. Decisions about investment, staffing, programs, and preparing grantees for Beldon’s exit all flowed from the simple fact that an immutable closing date existed on the horizon. This monograph, “Giving While Living: The Beldon Fund Spend-Out Story” PDF, examines how Beldon handled the practical implications of putting the foundation on a ten-year spend-out course while seeking to accomplish an ambitious mission. Some of the questions we sought to answer were: How does having a sunset date affect program strategy? What is the appropriate way Read more
As a more technocratic approach to philanthropy has emerged over the past 15 years, it has been seen as the opposite of humanistic philanthropy. Rather than a dichotomy, these approaches are on a continuum. The best tools from each approach can and should be brought to bear, including the wellthought out and disciplined strategies and results orientation of technocrats and the values base, intuition, responsiveness, and flexibility of the humanists. Staff and board leaders at foundations should articulate the humanistic-technocratic blend they desire, deliberately distill it into the organizational culture and everyday practices, and hire staff who possess multiple intelligences. Read more
A guide for nonprofit leaders, their boards, and their donors.Scarce resources (both money and time) are routinely wasted in the critical linkage between donor and grantee. As a consequence, our communities—the causes and constituents we are trying to serve—are being unnecessarily shortchanged.What’s needed is more effective donor-grantee collaboration, so that philanthropists and the nonprofit organizations they support can get the absolute most from every scarce dollar they invest. Reduced to the essentials, there are three imperatives of true collaboration—for which both donors and grantees must share responsibility.The Donor-Grantee Trap details each imperative in turn. It is written for nonprofit executives, Read more
The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers presents practical guidance for national funders to further relationships and deepen the impact of philanthropic investments made in collaboration with local funders.
Raising money for a pooled fund is time consuming and requires expertise with the funding topic and the target audience. Yet the process of shopping around a pooled fund or collaborative concept can be valuable in its own right, even if most do not participate. Shared interest around a topic or community is a necessary but insufficient reason for participating in a pooled fund. A pooled fund provides an opportunity for individuals and family foundations to learn and grow as donors. Someone with passion, organizational skills, and persistence needs to drive the process forward or it will likely fall by Read more
Based on the candid peer conversations and insights from thought leaders that were offered during two “National Summits” on family philanthropy, this brief envisions the changes in the field, and suggests ways to adapt family giving for a better future– a future of new families, new generations, new kinds of relationships, and new methods for creating change.
This introduction presents a glimpse into a new Anthology chapter that looks at RWJF’s Pioneering Portfolio, designed to explore the innovative ideas.
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
Supporting organizations provide a broad array of services, including grants and other financial benefits, to the organizations they support. This study found that nearly 92 percent of the large supporting organizations with no apparent grants in our sample did, in fact, provide significant financial services and benefits to their supported organizations. Complex business and legal reasons similar to those found in the for-profit world appear to lie behind the activities of most of these organizations.
The State of General Operating Support 2011 found some hopeful signs: we saw a notable bump in share of grant dollars reported as core support, from 16 percent average in 2008-2010 to 24 percent in 2011.
This infographic is part of GrantCraft’s Leadership Series paper Frameworks for Private Foundations: A New Model for Impact, produced in partnership with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which explores the core frameworks that shape private foundations, and offers a roadmap for funders interested in reflecting on these frameworks to better align purpose, public benefit, and action.This infographic is composed of three core elements—charter, social compact, and operating capabilities—that together inform a foundation’s structure and approach.
Some 30 elements that can feed into a comprehensive theory of philanthropy represent a customizable tool for exploring the issues foundations face. A foundation can use the tool to gather data and perspectives about specific aspects of its heritage and approach; what is learned in addressing the elements can then be synthesized into a succinct and coherent theory of philanthropy. Produced as part of A Foundation’s Theory of Philanthropy: What It Is, What It Provides, How to Do It
Given that companies are putting more than $14 billion a year into charitable causes, measuring results and ensuring real social impact should be important goals. A few corporate leaders are realizing these goals, including Goldman Sachs, Nike and Intel. MORE To do this they apply the same discipline to their charitable work that they do to their core business — insisting on strategic focus, investing at scale and measuring results.
Tiger Foundation was started by legendary investor Julian Robertson, Jr., founder of Tiger Management. One of the most successful hedge funds of the 1990s, Tiger Management quickly generated incredible wealth for its 20- and 30-year old investment staff. But from the beginning, Robertson also wanted to instill in his employees a commitment to giving back. Equally important, he wanted to cultivate in them the desire to move beyond “traditional charity” and participate actively in the philanthropic process. So he created a venue for doing so, establishing the Tiger Foundation in 1990 with a dual mission that drives the organization to Read more
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
By: Dara Major, Principal, Dara Major Philanthropy Consulting The specific learning needs of grantmakers can vary widely – depending on mission, goals, structure and context and, ultimately, individual roles and competencies. We’ve scanned the sector for existing, high-quality learning frameworks that illustrate a range of perspectives on roles and competencies in a variety of operating contexts, with the understanding that most grantmakers work within multiple frameworks. The examples below include a mix of knowledge (what grantmakers should know) and competencies (what grantmakers should be expected to do) – and are useful whether you are an individual program officer new to your Read more
By: Barbara Demarest, strategy consultant, Barbara Demarest Consulting Over the past several years, there has been discussion in the world of philanthropy about failure. Here is a collection of ideas about failure – whether you learn more from it than success, how you learn from it, how organizations look at it, and the importance of failure in achieving eventual success. These different viewpoints on failure and learning come from both the field of philanthropy and from other sectors. Following Up on Failure – from The Chronicle of Philanthropy regarding learning from failure Failing Forward – posted on both Lucy Bernholz’s Philanthropy 2173 and Alliance Magazine’s blog Exploring Read more
Sparked by the publication of Leap of Reason by Mario Morino, this symposium convened a select group of twenty leaders from government, nonprofits, philanthropy, and business to discuss a challenge that has limited the collective impact of the social sector: the lack of encouragement and support in the nonprofit community for disciplined, data-driven management. The symposium explored barriers to and opportunities for making performance management more common in the social sector. Participants discussed possible solutions that would advance performance management, including the Outcome and Effective Practices Portal (now called PerformWell), an online resource for nonprofits seeking assistance with identifying indicators Read more
International grantmaking has increased dramatically in the past two decades, at a rate faster than domestic grantmaking. The increase in international grantmaking, stimulated by increased interest in global issues, was fueled by increased foundation assets and especially by new foundations created since 1990. While many of the issues confronting international grantmaking exist with domestic grantmaking, they have special aspects and increased importance because of the global context. Many foundations have now accumulated information about how best to work in partnership with other foundations, governments, and business; these lessons would benefit all foundations. Thoughtful collective action taken by foundation membership organizations Read more
This report features a step-by-step process to assist foundations in developing proxy voting guidelines in a simple and cost effective manner. Key recommendations include: find a champion to coordinate the process and develop a proposal for the board of directors explaining the benefits associated with aligning philanthropic mission and funding areas with investment strategy. Once guidelines are developed, options for implementing a policy including hiring a proxy voting service, asking a broker or money manager to vote in line with the policy, or develop the capacity to vote in-house. The report contains a comprehensive Resource Section listing sample voting policies Read more
This report seeks to identify and describe state-of-the-art approaches to valuing social returns on social investments (SROI), to review the organizational challenges to implementing an SROI measurement process, and to examine in detail organizations in the Netherlands and the United States that have attempted to use SROI measurements. The focus of each piece of the project was SROI methods and valuation in the health care field, specifically. In the conclusion, the report distills some best practices and practical tips for conducting SROI measurements.
This quick video shows how this powerful tool works by linking and leveraging secure information already gathered by public agencies. Participating organizations decide what data to share, where to store this information and how it can be used. This new picture has fewer statistical blind spots, which can help lawmakers and leaders develop smarter policies, programs and strategies for supporting system and community solutions.
If the media reports are any indication, interest in donor-advised funds (DAFs) is on the rise. DAFs enable donors to claim a tax deduction by placing their donation in a fund run by a charity, which will later be distributed, under the advice of “donor advisers,” to other Internal Revenue Service–registered charities. Recent headlines imply that DAFs reduced money distributed for charitable purposes, but that is misleading, if not wrong. In fact, because of additional investment gains that must be distributed and low overhead costs relative to other forms of endowed giving, DAFs tend to increase what charities receive over Read more
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation commissioned Barry Knight of CENTRIS to develop these case studies featuring profiles of eight community philanthropy initiatives from around the world.
“The noblest question in the world is what good may I do in it?” Benjamin Franklin, Founder of the University of Pennsylvania, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1737. High impact philanthropy means getting the most good for your philanthropic dollar. It is the process by which a philanthropist makes the biggest difference possible, given the amount of capital invested.
If you were to ask a donor, “What type of donor are you,” he or she might pause and respond with another question: “What kinds of donors are there?” A number of observers of philanthropy have written about different types of philanthropists. While categorizing donors into types may be useful, most philanthropists’ gifts will fall along a spectrum of giving styles. Donors may find themselves pulled to supporting direct services and write a check to an organization whose sole purpose is to feed the hungry. Later, they may be moved to make a gift that addresses the root causes of Read more
Allen Hancock opens the issue with a personal vignette highlighting the need to create a proactive giving plan. Letters to the Editor make their first appearance, enhancing the magazine’s community feeling. Reader’s Views depict the challenges inherent in finding or creating satisfying opportunities for giving. An academic perspective classifying types of giving styles is offered, as are opportunities for ‘team giving,’ democratizing funding choices by involving others in funding decisions, using foundations to identify individual activists, and tips for creating donor-advised funds.
This blog post asks, “What obligations — if any — do foundations and new donors have to local communities in which they are based? And what role should they play in addressing rising income inequality?” The authors believe that foundations have some obligation to the places where their donors have lived and built their companies, and that they should also help the least well off. They set out to research these questions in Silicon Valley — a bellwether for trends in the rest of the nation — and published findings in a report, The Giving Code: Silicon Valley Nonprofits and Read more
Place by place, community philanthropy organizations will need to figure out what to hold onto, what to let go of, and what to create a new to better meet the evolving needs of their communities. We launched the What’s Next for Community Philanthropy initiative in January 2013 to engage community foundations and other community philanthropy organizations in a large-scale innovation and design process to help them open up to new models and new possibilities that will help them better serve their communities in the years ahead.
As the world becomes more complex and interdependent, is the concept of boundaries still important? If it is then how do you manage them? This post explores the relevance of boundaries in an increasingly complex world. Over the next two months we will examine what are some key organizational boundaries that managers need to establish, and how they can consciously evolve these boundaries as the external environment changes. This blog is followed by two additional posts: Key Organizational Boundaries from a Systems Perspective and Shifting Organizational Boundaries.
‘Don’t just tell me what to do, come and help me do it!’ said an Indian government official to a researcher bearing results from studies into effective aid programmes. His response is salutary: there is much work now on increasing the use of evidence in public policy, so we need to understand what policymakers actually need and want, and what will help them be more evidence-driven. For foundations there is a clear message: it isn’t enough just to fund research. You have to make sure it reaches the relevant policymakers and in a form that is useful to them. Over Read more
As endowments set aside for charity, donor-advised funds have many similarities to foundations but do not face the same rules and restrictions that can intimidate would-be foundation donors. Donor-advised funds introduce a new ease to the establishment of endowments, calling into question the often burdensome policies associated with foundations. Donor-advised funds allow a wide range of people to establish small endowments—a development with exciting prospects for the future of philanthropy. However, donor-advised funds not only introduce a new way of giving, they also force a reevaluation of past practices. Because donor-advised funds are treated so differently from foundations on questions Read more
A compilation of interviews with foundation leaders on the importance of supporting advocacy.
CEP’s research shows that program officers can be the distinguishing factor between a foundation that makes a difference—and one that simply makes grants. Working Well With Grantees: A Guide for Foundation Program Staff offers program staff critical guidelines for building better relationships with grantees. The findings and suggestions in the guide are based on data from tens of thousands of surveys of nonprofits conducted by CEP during the past decade. We’ve updated, summarized, or expanded upon findings from six of our publications that focus on how foundations and grantees can best work together. We also share for the first time some new data and analysis Read more
This is the first in a series of guides to engage and educate donors – notably new and emerging donors – in planning, implementing and sustaining effective philanthropy programs. Part of our Philanthropy Roadmap resources to support effective giving by donors worldwide, this guide sets up the framework for the topics in the series, as well as introduces the approach RPA has been using successfully for some time to guide donors along their philanthropic journey.