A Foundation’s Theory of Philanthropy: What It Is, What It Provides, How to Do It

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

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Catagories: Essentials, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Strategy and Evaluation









A Framework for Delivering Education Programs in Your Regional Association: Ten Principles and Practices

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.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Achieving Foundation Accountability and Transparency: Lessons From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Scorecard

The purpose of this article is to help foundations in their accountability and transparency efforts by sharing lessons from one foundation’s journey to develop a scorecard. A commitment to funding and sharing the results from rigorous evaluations set the tone for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) accountability. The Scorecard is a powerful tool for RWJF to set goals, track organizational effectiveness, and motivate responses to shortcomings. Foundations can tailor their scorecard to include what best serves their needs. With its Scorecard, RWJF found that comparative and quantitative measures are the most powerful forces to motivate change. Setting targets motivates staff Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Advanced Mini-Intensive in Grantmaking

This course includes an in-depth analysis of evaluation models; proposal assessments; funder-grantee relationships and models, especially as they apply to particular funding areas and values-based grantmaking; changes in the philanthropy law and environment; and participant-presented case studies. Course content is updated based upon recommendations of the larger philanthropy field and past participants. The course is coordinated by Richard Marker, an internationally known thought leader in the grantmaking and philanthropy field. He is joined in class by several highly respected and prominent philanthropy experts. CEU: 4

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , General Grants , Grantmaking, In-Person Workshop, Issue-Specific Grants, New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Aggregate Regional Association Logic Model

This logic model is an aggregation of key activities that you perform as a regional association (RA). It was developed in conjunction with RAs that attended Innovation Network’s evaluation session at the 2013 Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers Annual Conference, and was further vetted by a group of RA representatives before being finalized. The purpose of this aggregate logic model is to provide RAs with a springboard to build their own logic models and other planning documents. A logic model is a visual representation of the work that you are doing and how it is connected to changes that Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Aligning Capital with Mission

In an effort to support the broader mission investing field, Aligning Capital with Mission offers, for the first time publicly, findings that highlight the strong alignment of the Social Investment Program’s impact with a Foundation’s mission and programmatic goals. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving the lives of America’s children and families, engaged InSight at Pacific Community Ventures — with research support from The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University — to conduct the first comprehensive third-party evaluation of its Social Investment Program, a $125 million allocation from its endowment dedicated to mission Read more

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Catagories: Mission and Values, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Assessing and Advancing Foundation Transparency: Corporate Foundations as a Case Study

This article explores the mix of forces explaining variability in good-governance standards and practices by charitable foundations. A six-drivers framework for explaining improved foundation accountability and transparency is proposed and discussed in the context of a country study. Those drivers are: regulatory pressures, self-regulation, demands for information from donors and other relevant stakeholders, societal pressure derived from scandals, emulation, and third-party assessment. A simple tool for assessing foundation transparency internationally is proposed and then applied to corporate, endowed, and fundraising foundations in the U.S. and Spain. Foundations’ financial structure compounds with institutional factors to influence the stage of development of Read more

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Catagories: Governance , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Assessing Nonprofit Networks Prior to Funding: Tools for Foundations to Determine Life Cycle Phase and Function

Foundations and other funders can use life cycle analysis tools to determine a nonprofit network’s stage of development and functional characteristics as a precursor to funding network activities. Characteristics that determine a network’s readiness for funding include network cohesion (trust and communication), cooperation (mutual purpose and goals), and capacity for externally focused action. Network Mindset Survey analysis can help determine a network’s readiness for funding by measuring members’ understanding of the power and utility of networks; degree of membership engagement; identification of specific, common concerns; and readiness for productive action. Three networks that received foundation support for networking principles, mapping, Read more

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Catagories: Grantmaking, New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Benchmarking Evaluation in Foundations: Do We Know What We Are Doing?

Evaluation in philanthropy – with staff assigned to evaluation-related responsibilities – began in the 1970s and has evolved, along with philanthropy, in the four decades since. What has not changed, however, is a regular questioning of what foundations are doing on evaluation, especially since the world of philanthropy regularly shifts, and changes in evaluation resourcing and positioning tend to soon follow. This article presents new findings about what foundations are doing on evaluation and discusses their implications. It is based on 2012 research that benchmarks the positioning, resourcing, and function of evaluation in foundations, and follows up on a 2009 Read more

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Catagories: Essentials, New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices

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

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









Beyond Compliance: Measuring to Learn, Improve, and Create Positive Change

At their best, systems for monitoring and measuring nonprofit performance illuminate what an organization is accomplishing, where its resources are going, and how that organization might address weaknesses and build on successes. At their worst, such systems become an expensive compliance exercise, diverting resources from program delivery without returning a greater understanding of how to achieve an organization’s goals. With that context in mind, the Center and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative developed this report to tackle questions central to effective philanthropy: How do non-profits and donors measure and manage results? What tools exist, whom do they serve, which questions Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation, Resources









Building a Strategic Learning and Evaluation System for Your Organization

The call for evaluation has grown louder in the field of philanthropy. There is a need for a deeper understanding of ongoing activities to inform strategic decisions about what to do next. But despite this growing need, current practices are often uncoordinated and unhelpful at an organizational level. How can organizations’ evaluation processes be more systematic, coordinated, and intentional, leading to greater understanding of their impact?

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Business Planning for Nonprofits: What It Is and Why It Matters

The business-planning process offers a nonprofit’s decision makers a rare opportunity to step back and look at their organization as a whole. It is a time to connect the dots between mission and programs, to specify the resources that will be required to deliver those programs, and to establish performance measures that allow everyone to understand whether the desired results are being achieved.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Can You Open-Source Your Strategy?

Strategy development has traditionally been the domain of the C-suite, employing structured tools for analysis and tightly managed decision making. The Wikimedia Foundation (the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia) took a different approach by open-sourcing its strategy formulation, drawing on the community of Wikimedians around the world. The process took place in public, on a strategy wiki that anyone could contribute to.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Case Study: Central Minnesota Community Foundation: Creating a Community Leadership Compass

Creating a Community Leadership Compass is a case study that describes the Central Minnesota Community Foundation’s transformative path into community leadership work. It looks at how the board and staff worked together to create a vision and framework for community leadership and at early community leadership efforts. It also includes criteria developed by the foundation for embarking on community leadership projects.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Case Study: Greater Milwaukee Foundation: Built for Leadership

Embedded in this case study are three Cool Tools that community foundations can access via the click of a mouse: Milwaukee’s “Good to Great” strategic plan Criteria for selecting leadership projects Metrics used to assess the Foundation’s leadership efforts Read the case study to learn more about: Building a board for leadership Operating from a values base Aligning staff Engaging donors and other co-investors Funding community leadership Increasing impact

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Governance , Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









CFLeads Executive Leadership Institute

The Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) is a one-year intensive learning opportunity tailored specifically for community foundation CEOs to strengthen their ability to step into complex leadership roles in their communities. Through three, small group, face-to-face meetings supplemented by one-on-one coaching, it is designed to strengthen CEO leadership skills and relationships. With a focus on challenging CEOs in positive ways in a supportive peer environment, the Institute is designed to stimulate creativity and inspire “out of the box” thinking. The initial ELI cohort will consist of 15 community foundation leaders drawn from a pool of CEOs from community foundations in older Read more

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Catagories: Governance , Individual Development - Strengthening/Building Your Career, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Changemaking: Building Strategic Competence

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

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Charitable Lead Trust Handbook

An in-depth guide to the workings and variations of Charitable Lead Trusts.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Individual Development - Strengthening/Building Your Career, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Community Leadership Framework Toolbox

A tool for community foundations for using the Framework for Community Leadership by a Community Foundation. It can help your community foundation: Understand community leadership Assess your community leadership strengths and challenges Plan new community leadership work Analyze past and current community leadership efforts.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Community Leadership Network Evaluation — Key Findings from a Survey of Participants

This report summarizes findings from an evaluation of the Community Leadership Network, a signature CFleads learning opportunity. It makes the case for why peer learning matters: practitioners learn best when they are able to hone and practice their leadership skill in environments that encourage peer learning and exchange.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Individual Development - Strengthening/Building Your Career, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Community Leadership Networks Summary

As part of a multi-tiered effort to advance knowledge and understanding of community leadership, the Council on Foundations’ Community Foundations Leadership Team, in partnership with CFLeads, launched action-oriented Community Leadership Networks. Learn more about these networks here.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Individual Development - Strengthening/Building Your Career, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Community Leadership Tools – CooL Tools

What makes these tools so cool? They were developed and are being used by your community foundation colleagues! And they can help build your community leadership potential. Check out the variety of tools shared by your colleagues to advance community leadership work. Includes: Strategic Plans and Frameworks; Choosing and Timing Community Leadership Opportunities; Diversity and Inclusion; Donor Engagement; and Metrics

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Communications , Financial Stewardship, New Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Constructing Collaborative Success for Network Learning: The Story of the Discovery Community Self-Assessment Tool

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.  

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Program Learning and Evaluation









Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits

As U.S. nonprofits take on an increasing share of society’s work, they face mounting pressure from stakeholders – donors, boards, employees – to show results. To make the greatest possible impact, they need to explicitly state the outcomes they’re aiming for and how they plan to accomplish those goals. The authors say organizations should start by rigorously addressing a few interdependent questions: Which results will we hold ourselves accountable for? How will we achieve them? What will the results really cost, and how can we fund them? How do we build the organization we need to deliver those results? Together, Read more

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Demonstrating the Value of Social Service Programs: A Simplified Approach to Calculating Return on Investment

In 2008, as charitable giving dropped by $6.4 billion, 54 percent of human service programs saw an increase in the need for their services. Additionally, 74 percent of programs specifically serving children and youth reported being underfunded or severely underfunded. As government and foundation grantmakers transition from charitable giving to social investment, a Gates Foundation report on eight methodologies to assist measuring social value creation finds the methodologies are many years away from being suitable for both nonprofits and grantmakers. To better recognize and communicate the work of frontline practitioners, there is a need to change the orientation of our Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Designing an Evaluation of a New Initiative: A Practical Approach to Ensure Evaluation Use

This article describes the process of planning an evaluation of the Tribal Tobacco Education and Policy initiative. The initiative was launched in 2007 to reduce tobacco use among American Indians, who disproportionately suffer the negative health effects of tobacco use. The work of the initiative and the evaluation had to incorporate an understanding of tribal structure as well as of the traditional use of tobacco in American Indian sacred ceremonies. The theory of change was conceptualized as circular, rather than linear, in keeping with American Indian philosophical traditions. The planning process, utilizing evaluators familiar with community mobilization and policy evaluation Read more

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Catagories: Issue-Specific Grants, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Discovery Timeline

The Discovery Timeline provides a web-based opportunity to learn more about the history, events, and decisions of Discovery – the primary initiative of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund. You can start with a broad overview and note contextual events during each time period. Then, read descriptions of key foundation decisions. You can also access evidence-based and reflective findings from the “learning and results boxes.” The “also of interest box” to the right is updated periodically as new information is made available.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









DIY Strategy Improvements: 10 Activities for Community Foundations

We’ve put together a set of activities that The Giving Practice has used with all kinds of community and private foundations. Our clients have used these activities to support an ongoing strategy practice, versus a discrete strategic planning process. Some activities we created with our clients. Others we’ve adapted from the field. You can customize each for use during routine meetings or even informal conversations as well as designated learning opportunities like retreats and strategy reviews. Most of what you’ll find here is for everyday use, when there is no consultant and not a lot of time for preparation or Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Doing What it Takes: Organizing Your Foundation For Impact

In this video, Paul Grogan discusses how The Boston Foundation has taken on a significant community leadership role in addition to its stewardship and grantmaking roles. Hear how The Boston Foundation: uses research to help guide its direction gathers citizen input to inform its activities makes the most of communications to promote its work and directly engages in public policy activity to ensure a deep and long-lasting impact.

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Catagories: Developing Your Talent and Leadership, Governance , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Resources, Strategy and Evaluation









Enhancing Foundation Capacity: The Role of the Senior Leadership Team

This article examines the issue of foundation organization design and assesses how foundation leaders might think about their organizations as institutions. Noting that any organization structure inhabited by human beings creates silos and territorial issues, foundation leaders are increasingly using two primary mechanisms to minimize these artificial barriers and maximize collaboration: enhanced headquarters functions to help integrate across the organization, and senior leadership teams. This article reviews the structure, roles, responsibilities, and value-add of senior leadership teams at 19 foundations. The senior leadership team plays a crucial role in foundations, functioning as an advisory group to the president and chief Read more

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Catagories: Developing Your Talent and Leadership, Human Resources , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Evaluating Complexity

While evaluation has traditionally focused on assessing programmatic impact according to pre-determined indicators, a new approach is needed for evaluating complex initiatives, as well as initiatives operating in complex environments where progress is not linear, predictable, or controllable. 9 propositions can help evaluators navigate the unique characteristics of complex systems, improve their evaluation practice, and better serve the needs of the social sector.

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Catagories: Essentials, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropy's History, Role in Society, Strategy and Evaluation









Evaluating the Impact of Social Media at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

RWJF developed a logic model, that outlines how we believe our social media activities will produce programmatic improvement and greater impact. The model was designed and developed with the help of Victoria Dougherty, of Victoria Dougherty Consulting, who based the model on information collected through document review and interviews with RWJF communications staff, research and evaluation program officers, and other program staff at RWJF who were early adopters of social media in the workplace.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Resources, Strategy and Evaluation









Evaluating the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund’s Social Determinants of Health Portfolio

Research over the past two decades repeatedly demonstrates the relationship between poor health outcomes and socioeconomic factors such as poor housing, poverty, racism, and structural inequity. In 2005, the Northwest Health Foundation, supported by the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, began an initiative to address these social determinants of health (SDOH). A variety of projects – short- and long-term, large and small – were supported over the five-year period for a total of $12.4 million. The mean project-implementation grant was $175,350 and 2½ years in length; capacity-building grants averaged $50,000 for 1½ years. In all, 323 social-determinant accomplishments were identified. The Read more

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Catagories: Issue-Specific Grants, New Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Evaluation Capacity Building: Examples and Lessons from the Field

Innovation Network developed these three introductory evaluation documents as part of Building Nonprofit Capacity to Evaluate, Learn, and Grow Impact, a workshop we presented in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ Scaling What Works initiative. Excerpt: Capacity building is a catch all term for an array of efforts a nonprofit organization may undertake to strengthen its operations or activities. In addition to evaluation, a few common areas in which nonprofits seek to improve capacity include technology, back office management (e.g., accounting and human resources), fundraising, advocacy, communications, governance, leadership development, and volunteer recruitment and development.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Evaluation Capacity Building: Funder Initiatives to Strengthen Grantee Evaluation Capacity and Practice

Evaluation Capacity Building (ECB) is the process of improving an organization’s ability to use evaluation to learn from its work and improve results. Organizational learning is incredibly important. Organizations that are adept at learning from mistakes and adapting to new challenges are more likely to be successful, and in the nonprofit sector, more likely to make significant progress toward mission-related outcomes. In general, ECB can be used to: Improve the knowledge and skills of individuals. Staff members need to have an understanding of evaluation, and the confidence to apply basic evaluation approaches and methods to their work. Everyone does not Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team, Program Learning and Evaluation









Evaluation in Philanthropy: Perspectives from the Field

This publication offers a brief overview of how grantmakers are looking at evaluation as a means of improvement. It is based on a review of the current literature on evaluation and learning, outreach to grantmakers that have made these activities a priority, and the work of GEO and the Council on Foundations to raise this issue more prominently among their members.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Evaluation Use in Philanthropy: Using Logic Models

A Logic Model is a widely used tool that presents specific details of program inputs, activities and outcomes, and shows generally how they are related. Theory of Change is a model designed to link outcomes and activities to explain how and why desired change is expected to come about. Essentially, Logic Models clarify what you are doing and Theories of Change clarify why you are doing it. The terms are sometimes used inter-changeably but they are actually different tools. In Using Logic Models we explore what sets them apart.

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Catagories: Developing Your Talent and Leadership, Governance , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Evaluation With A Diversity Lens: Exploring Its Functions And Utility To Inform Philanthropic Effectiveness

This report reveals practical insights that can help foundations realize greater effectiveness through increasing inclusivity investments. This piece will prove particularly timely and instructive for funders embarking on the practice of evaluation with a diversity lens (EDL). EDL is an approach to program evaluation that emphasizes the importance of incorporating diverse voices (particularly those of intended program beneficiaries) to identify problems and to engage in program design, implementation, and data analysis.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , New Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Evaluative Tools for Articulating and Monitoring Foundation Strategy

Research shows that while foundation leadership and staff value strategy and foundations largely perceive themselves as strategic, they often struggle to articulate, implement, and track strategy. The William Penn Foundation has developed a collection of tools to articulate and assess its progress toward strategic goals. Each tool employs a structured format to promote standardization; flexibility, though, is encouraged in the application of each tool to ensure that form does not dictate function. Each tool provides a template for organizing information that should be tweaked as needed. The speed and breadth of adoption of each tool varies and is often related Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Everything You Need to Know About Impact Investing (In 1 Hour!)

It seems like everyone is talking about impact investing these days… but is it right for you and your organization? In this webinar experts will elaborate upon what it is, how to decide if it’s right for your organization and explore some of the the biggest hurdles holding individuals and organizations back from directing funds to impact investing. Industry experts Jean Case, Melanie Audette, and Dan Brillman, who will now be joined by Stacy Donohue and Kate Ahern lead the discussion and share how organizations can unite purpose with profit.

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Catagories: Essentials, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Strategy and Evaluation









Factors Influencing Donor Partnership Effectiveness

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) produced six case studies on jointly funded programs related to the environment, global health, and information technologies in developing regions around the world. A two-dimensional tool probing eight factors that influence donor (funder) partnership performance and interinstitutional communication was developed and used in conjunction with a Partnering Process Model to guide the preparation of the case studies. The case studies demonstrated that communication is important externally, that is, among donor partners, and internally, that is, within the various divisions of IDRC. With the use of this tool, it was possible to observe how communication Read more

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Fiscal Fitness for Nonprofits: Stories from the Field

“Stories From the Field, ” published by The Wallace Foundation, describes their effort to provide financial trainings to executives of high-performing organizations. FMA’s work in Chicago with After School Programs is also recognized. (FMA is pleased to share this report with the permission of The Wallace Foundation.)

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Catagories: General Grants , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Foundation Readiness for Community Transformation: Learning in Real Time

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.)

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team, Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Foundation Readiness for Community Transformation: Learning in Real Time

This article describes the internal structures and processes adopted by The Skillman Foundation to support the iterative practice of “learning and doing” in the first phase of a rapidly evolving, ambitious community change enterprise in six Detroit neighborhoods. The foundation invested in its own and its partners’ capacity to learn in real time so that together they could adjust and readjust their strategies in response to initial results and, in doing so, deepen their working relationships and build further capacity for effective implementation. Challenges to supporting this learning culture included increased visibility and pressures to produce results and measurable outcomes, Read more

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Framework for Community Leadership by a Community Foundation

Recognizing that few guideposts existed for community foundations that want to be intentional about building their skills and aligning their organizations for community leadership, a group of philanthropy leaders – the National Task Force on Community Leadership – created this Framework. Built from actual community leadership experiences, it is the first effort to bring clarity to the practice of community leadership by community foundations. It allows community foundations to take stock, analyze options, develop strategies, and measure progress. It is a necessary first—and giant—step in creating a practical knowledge base.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Framework for Connecticut’s Statewide System of Early Childhood State and Local Partnerships

The Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative, a project of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, brings national expertise to consider a new “Framework.” In 2015, Early Childhood Funder Collaborative (Collaborative) provided funding for the purpose of developing recommendations for an infrastructure connecting state child-serving agencies, especially the Office of Early Childhood, with local communities and communities with each other. The resulting report, Framework for Connecticut’s Statewide System of Early Childhood State and Local Partnerships, concludes with a set of recommendations for Connecticut Leaders to consider in creating a statewide network of local or regional early care and education partnerships. The recommended Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Galvanizing Philanthropy

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

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Gender Transformative Philanthropy A Key to Improving Program Outcome and Impact in At-Risk Communities

As foundations and other philanthropic institutions assess where they can maximize the social return on their charitable investments, many are looking at issues of gender norms and gender equity. To complicate matters further, in the US, where there’s often a widely held assumption that women and girls already enjoy full equality of rights, grantees may not see the need to have a gender analysis at all. Or if they do have one, it is marginalized. As one experienced program officer put it, “Grantees need to see gender and race together. Gender impacts every issue they work on. But grantees are Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Resources, Strategy and Evaluation









Getting to Impact Through Evaluation

Evaluation is key to increasing your impact, and, although evaluation may have been overwhelming or unproductive in the past, it doesn’t have to be going forward. This primer introduces you to simple, straightforward evaluation from start to finish so you can: Set the stage for evaluation at your foundation. Create a road map for your giving that will help you target an evaluation. Understand five key steps of evaluation: targeting, asking, tracking, learning, and using. Know where to turn for support when evaluating your work. Get started on the road toward even greater impact.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Getting to Results: A Tool and Lessons from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s K-12 Education Portfolio

In 2002, the Annie E. Casey Foundation adopted a results-based accountability (RBA) framework to track and report on the results of their philanthropic investments. The RBA tool was piloted in a few program areas, including its K-12 education portfolio. Grantees were highly engaged in an iterative process to determine appropriate measures, refine the theory of change, and how to track progress. Overall, the RBA tool enabled staff to get a sense of how grantees were doing and therefore how the foundation was doing in a way that hadn’t been possible before. The K-12 program got a much clearer sense of Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Give Smart Content Library

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.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Grantmaking, Mission and Values, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Program Learning and Evaluation









Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results

In Give Smart, Thomas J. Tierney pools his hands-on knowledge with philanthropy expert Joel L. Fleishman to create a much-needed primer for philanthropists and the nonprofit organizations they support. Drawing from personal experiences, testimonials, and Bridgespan’s case studies, including those of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Give Smart picks up where Jim Collins’ Good to Great and the Social Sectors left off and presents the first in-depth, expert guide for engaged donors and nonprofit leaders.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Mission and Values, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









GMNsight: Ideas About Big Data

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

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , New Grants Management, New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Program Learning and Evaluation









Goal-Free Evaluation: An Orientation for Foundations’ Evaluations

Goal-free evaluation (GFE), in program evaluation, is a model in which the official or stated program goals and objectives are withheld or screened from the evaluator. Several obstacles must be overcome in persuading foundations and programs to consider GFE as a viable option, because both tend to view goal attainment as intuitively and inextricably linked to evaluation. This article presents the case for GFE as a perspective that belongs in a foundation’s toolbox. In particular, this article demonstrates GFE’s actual use, highlights aspects of its methodology, and details its potential benefits.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Going Deeper: Can Investigative Reporters Add Value to Assessment and Evaluation?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supplemented its standard evaluation approach by engaging professional journalists to elaborate on evaluation findings. The resulting reports are more direct, even critical, than any prior Knight Foundation attempt to evaluate and assess. It produced deeper looks into the intent and outcome of major initiatives, analyzing and addressing flaws in the theories of change underlying initiatives. The goal of reaching external audiences was not achieved.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Good Neighborhoods, Good Schools, and The Skillman Foundation’s Strategy for Place‐based Change

This Foundation-commissioned white paper gives an overview and topline analysis of Good Neighborhoods, Good Schools, and the Skillman Foundation’s strategy for place‐based change. It provides background on the thinking behind the Foundation’s efforts and the context in which they occurred; synthesizes evaluators’’ findings on the successes and challenges that the Foundation encountered in that work between 2006‐2011; suggests opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the second half of the Good Neighborhoods decade; and makes observations about the Foundation’s work that may have implications for the broader field of place‐based change.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Grantees Report Back: Helpful Reporting and Evaluation Processes

Provides a look at how more than 24,000 grantees that have received funding from 130 foundations experience reporting and evaluation processes, what makes them most helpful, and how foundations could improve them.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Resources, Strategy and Evaluation









Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations is a diverse community of more than 500 grantmakers reshaping the way philanthropy operates to invest in nonprofit success. Mission: Understanding that grantmakers are successful only to the extent that their grantees achieve meaningful results, GEO promotes strategies and practices that contribute to grantee success. Nonprofits are successful at achieving more meaningful change in our communities when they have the resources and skills to be effective. By not adequately responding to what nonprofits say they need most to maximize impact, funders can inadvertently do harm to the organizations and causes we intend to support. Changing grantmaker Read more




Indicators of Effectiveness: Understanding and Improving Foundation Performance

Describes current practices in foundation performance assessment and provides a framework for overall performance assessment. MORE Based on CEP’s research during the Foundation Performance Metrics Pilot Study, which included a survey of CEOs of the country’s largest foundations, a survey of grantees of 23 foundations, in-depth interviews with foundation CEOs and trustees, and analysis of publicly available data.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Influences of Venture Philanthropy on Nonprofits’ Funding: The Current State of Practices, Challenges, and Lessons

This article looks at the current state of venture philanthropy practices in the nonprofit sector, based on data from a survey of 124 nonprofits that engage in venture philanthropy. The survey probes to what degree nonprofit funders are implementing core activities of venture philanthropy – use of market-based funding instruments, providing strategic assistance, board participation, and use of social and financial performance criteria. Seven venture philanthropy organizations were also interviewed for this article. Various tactics they have used to mitigate internal and external tensions are examined, including complying with diverse interests to balance conflicting views if internal tension is moderate Read more

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Catagories: Essentials, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Strategy and Evaluation









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

Community foundations have a long history of supporting college access, particularly through the management of scholarship programs. This article examines the role of community foundations in the creation and establishment of local college access networks (LCAN) across the state of Michigan. We use the collective impact model as a framework to examine the roles of community foundations in the creation and development of LCANs. Our findings illustrate that community foundations have played a variety of roles, from fundraising to convening to cheerleading. The success of the community-foundation approach to LCAN development is evident both in the interviews conducted and the Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Investing and Social Impact: Practices of Private Foundations

There’s been a lot of discussion about aligning investment practices and mission at foundations, but to what extent are foundations engaging in practices like impact investing and negative screening? To dig beneath the talk and better understand the current state of practice at large private foundations, CEP surveyed CEOs at those foundations to learn more. Analysis of responses from 64 chief executives suggests that the rhetoric seems to be outpacing the reality.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Jump Start Learning In Your Organization

Understanding how to build a culture of learning to support your staff can be challenging. Whether you are a small foundation just starting to develop a new approach to learning or you are a well-established grantmaker looking for fresh ideas, this free, 45-minute webinar will help you support learning in your organization. Click “Go To Resource” to listen to the webinar, or download the file to view the slides.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Webinar









KIDS COUNT Data Center

KIDS COUNT is a national and state-by-state project of the Casey Foundation to track the status of children in the United States. At the national level, the principal activity of the initiative is the publication of the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, which uses the best available data to measure the educational, social, economic, and physical well-being of children state by state. The Foundation also funds a national network of state-level KIDS COUNT projects that provide a more detailed, county-by-county picture of the condition of children. By providing foundations, policymakers and citizens with benchmarks of child well-being, KIDS COUNT seeks Read more

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Issue-Specific Grants, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Lessons (Not Yet) Learned

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

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Lessons from the Field: From Understanding to Impact

Three foundations — the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Energy Foundation, and the Wilburforce Foundation — seek to make an impact on some of the most complicated challenges we face: civil rights, renewable energy sources, and wildlife protection. MORE This case study provides an in-depth look at how these foundations cultivate an understanding of their fields and then turn that understanding into more effective grantmaking.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Mission and Values, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Logic Model Builder

The Logic Model Builder helps you clarify the connection between what your program does and what it is trying to achieve. You’ll be guided through an interactive process of thinking about your program’s goals, rationale, activities, and resources, and how those elements work together to produce your intended outcomes. To access this resource, it is required to set up a free account through Innovation Network by following the link below: http://www.innonet.org/?module=register  

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Catagories: Developing Your Talent and Leadership, Governance , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Logic Model Template

Sample Logic Model Worksheet for Racial Equity and Particular Issues

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Catagories: Essentials, New Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Making Change by Spending Down

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

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Catagories: Essentials, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Strategy and Evaluation









Making Change Happen

Effective philanthropy is about the thoughtful creation of something new in the world. It harnesses rigor and strategy – as well as commitment and strength of heart – to build a practical path from donors’ ambitions to their desired impact. It starts with a philanthropist’s values and motivations, and moves through the careful, well-researched selection of appropriate goals until it produces its core element – a giving strategy. This strategy is hugely important because it dictates how a philanthropic investment will actually make change happen.  

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Catagories: Essentials, Mission and Values, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Making Measures Work For You: Outcomes and Evaluation

An outcomes-based approach to evaluation works, proponents say, because it uses straightforward metrics to assess actual impact. How else to know if the work you’re supporting is leading to the desired changes? Other grantmakers counter that outcomes measurement should be approached with care. Hasty assumptions or over-confidence in the idea that program impacts can be translated into hard data can skew not only the evaluation but the work itself. This guide looks at tensions that drive the debate about outcomes measurement, as well as common questions about its potential risks and rewards.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Many Hands, More Impact: Philanthropy’s Role in Supporting Movements

GEO has prepared a publication that provides a framework for understanding the array of roles that funders can play in supporting movements and networks. Many Hands, More Impact: Philanthropy’s Role in Supporting Movements offers an orientation to some of the inherent benefits and barriers to supporting movements and provides insight into ways that grantmakers can explore collaborative efforts for social change.

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Catagories: Grantmaking, New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Mapping Change: Using a Theory of Change to Guide Planning and Evaluation

“What are we doing, and why do we think it’s going to make a difference? Are we being effective?” Grantmakers ask evaluation questions like these of their grantees and themselves. This brief guide explains why grantmakers use theories of change to guide their questioning, unearth assumptions that underlie their work, establish common language, and develop strong action plans. Contributors to the guide also describe how a theory of change sets the stage for evaluation by clarifying goals, strategies, and milestones.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Master Juggler Executive Institute

Leadership development for foundation executives June 21-December 30, 2015 At Exponent Philanthropy, we know some things about you. You are committed to serving your foundation, your board, and your community. You make it a priority to leverage the most from your time and money. And you often put others first, not always getting around to investing in yourself and your professional development. With you in mind, we developed the Master Juggler Executive Institute, a carefully crafted 6-month program for those in the most senior staff role at their foundations. Program Highlights A unique opportunity for executive directors/CEOs and the foundations Read more

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Individual Development - Strengthening/Building Your Career, Legal Issues, Foundations, and Nonprofits, Mission and Values, New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team, Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Program Learning and Evaluation









Measuring the Impacts of Advocacy and Community Organizing: Application of a Methodology and Initial Findings

The increasing emphasis by funders on strategic grantmaking and measurable outcomes may be a disincentive to support policy and advocacy work, because of the perception that outcomes can be difficult to assess. A tool for measuring impact can reduce the barriers to funding advocacy and policy work. The tool draws upon the literature on evaluating advocacy and organizing, social capital building efforts, and return on investment approaches to evaluation. The tool was applied in two sites, where funders found it useful to understand advocacy impacts and learn how advocacy can enhance their grantmaking goals.

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Catagories: General Grants , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Mini-Intensive for New Philanthropists and Grantmakers

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.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Financial Stewardship, General Grants , Grantmaking, Issue-Specific Grants, Mission and Values, New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Philanthropy's History, Role in Society, Program Learning and Evaluation









Pathfinder Funder Edition: A Practical Guide to Advocacy Evaluation

Pathfinder is a practical guide to the advocacy evaluation process. This edition guides funders through the advocacy evaluation process from start to finish. Editions for advocates and evaluators are also available. Drawn from Innovation Network’s research and consulting experience, Pathfinder encourages the adoption of a “learning-focused evaluation” approach, which prioritizes using knowledge for improvement.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Philanthropy and Mistakes: An Untapped Resource

Sharing and leveraging lessons learned from mistakes is an important but underutilized resource to improve philanthropic investments and nonprofit performance. Philanthropic mistakes extend beyond the results of program evaluations to include questions of mission, role, investment strategies, and implementation. Distinguishing between “constructive” and “nonconstructive” mistakes focuses attention on those factors that shape the outcomes for even the most well-designed investments. Sharing and reflecting upon mistakes has the potential to improve philanthropic capacities for anticipation, learning, and adaptation. Philanthropy must recognize the sometimes blurry lines between success and failure, constructive and nonconstructive mistakes, and philanthropic and nonprofit sector accountability.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Philanthropy FAQ: How Do I Work with My Family to Achieve High-Impact Philanthropy?

Philanthropy offers an exciting opportunity to bring your loved ones together to support a common cause. However, getting the best possible results with your philanthropy and preserving the social bonds that are important to you can sometimes require trade-offs.

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Catagories: Governance , Individual Development - Strengthening/Building Your Career, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Philanthropy Lessons: The Many Forms of Evaluation

Evaluating impact can involve diverse data points, from tangible measures such as people served and dollars spent to less concrete aspects including lessons learned and challenges faced. Effective philanthropists embrace evaluation, understanding its dynamic and complex nature.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation, Strategy and Evaluation









Philanthropy, Evaluation, Accountability, and Social Change

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

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , General Grants , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









PowerCheck: Community Organizing Capacity Tool

Community organizing can be a complex process. To be successful, it’s important to prepare for success by understanding an organization’s readiness to engage and empower constituents. PowerCheck can help organizers – from beginners to the most sophisticated –better prepare for catalyzing community organizing efforts. In one hour or less, an organization can answer questions online about skills, expertise, gaps, and the resources available to successfully engage in community organizing work. PowerCheck generates immediate results, letting organizations and coalitions know where and how to focus resources and what types of partnerships to seek out to help build a plan to move Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Resources, Strategy and Evaluation









Practice, Practice, Practice: Preliminary Findings From an Evidence-Based Practice Funding Initiative at The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation

The Tower Foundation supported a five-year initiative to support the implementation of evidence based practices (EBP). The average award was a three-year award of $84,050. The underlying grantmaking theory of change was that behavioral health providers could bring empirically tested protocols to their communities and sustain them over time if supported by long-term funding to support the real costs of implementation (e.g., training, technical assistance, adherence to program protocols, and cultural change). Grantees cited the high cost of training, certification, and recertification – especially in the face of high staff turnover – as a primary challenge to implementing EBPs. Several Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









Project Streamline: Make Streamlining Stick

This framework illustrates the four basic phases that many grantmakers move through as they streamline and suggests activities and questions that can propel your process forward.

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Catagories: Grantmaking, New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Project Streamline: Online Applications and Reporting

A groundswell of funders are putting their application and reporting processes online for the first time or moving to a second generation of online systems, both custom-built and off-the-shelf. This is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be done right. This guide offers a set of recommended practices and principles to improve and streamline the process of online grantmaking.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Project Streamline: Practices That Matter

The cumulative impact of grantmakers’ varied application and reporting requirements undermines nonprofit effectiveness, causing grantseekers to devote too much time to seeking funding (often without payoff) and reporting on grants (often without benefit) to the detriment of their mission-based work. Awareness is translating into streamlining action for many grantmakers. Yet our 2013 assessment reveals that, while nonprofits have noticed changes, all still encounter time-wasting practices. While 77 percent of donors have taken steps to simplify things, fundraisers say they don’t feel much of a change. Based on what matters most to grantseekers, as well as understanding of what keeps grantmakers from implementing streamlining and the context of other pressures Read more

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Grantmaking, New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Project Streamline: Right-Sizing Guide

Right-sizing is the concept that one size might not fit all when it comes to application and reporting. When grantmaking is right-sized, the information requirements are proportionate to the size of the grant, are appropriate to the type of grant, and take into consideration prior relationships with grantees.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Grantmaking, New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Reframing Assessment of Grantee Perceptions: Reconsidering Effectiveness With Broader International Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is important in philanthropy because it allows grantmakers and grantees to pool their respective resources more effectively to address their shared target issues. As more and more foundations and other grantmaking entities venture into the expansive world of self-evaluation, it is prudent that these methods be examined in light of international funding relationships. In order to better understand how these tools and methods can be used internationally, we outline the opportunities presented when using frames as one basis for decision-making in complex situations. Using the hypothetical case of a U.S. funder seeking to understand grantee perception in East Read more

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









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

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

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Catagories: New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2007 Assessment Report

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

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2008 Assessment Report

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

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2009 Assessment Report

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

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2011 Assessment Report

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

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Setting the record straight: debunking philanthropic myths

Although much has been written about ‘what donors believe’ and ‘how modern foundations work’, hard data about how private foundation donors view themselves, their roles, and the non-profits they support is relatively scarce. With almost 1,200 US-based private foundation clients, Foundation Source is well positioned to put some of the common assumptions about this sector to the test. Last November, we carried out a survey of our clients that debunked some of philanthropy’s most established axioms – especially those relating to foundation attitudes to non-profits.

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Catagories: Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropy's History, Role in Society









Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency

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

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Catagories: Essentials, New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Social Movements and Philanthropy: How Foundations Can Support Movement Building

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

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









State of Evaluation: Evaluation Practice and Capacity in the Nonprofit Sector

This publication includes recent findings (from 2016) about how nonprofits engage in evaluation, and the capacities and characteristics of their organizations.  

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Resources, Strategy and Evaluation









Strategic Co-Funding: An Approach for Extended Impact

Co-published by GEO and REDF as an update to REDF’s 2008 article “Out of Philanthropy’s Funding Maze: Roadmap #1, Strategic Co-Funding,” designed to re-introduce the idea of strategic co-funding and highlight effective strategies and current examples.

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Catagories: Grantmaking, Making and Managing Grants, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity

Capacity building enables nonprofit leaders and organizations to develop the skills and resources they need to improve their work. Since each situation is unique and circumstances are always changing, effective capacity-building support is tailored to best suit the needs of grantees. This publication offers practical guidance and considerations to help grantmakers design an impactful approach.

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Catagories: General Grants , Making and Managing Grants, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Tactics in Philanthropy: The Case of the Moving Spotlight

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.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Taking on New Roles to Address 21st Century Problems

In employing co-creation, the partnership established new structures and adopted processes that enabled a diverse group of individuals and entities to voluntarily contribute their skills, expertise, and resources to create a state level early childhood systems approach in Connecticut. This co-creation process also resulted in important transformations within the entities involved. For CCP, it was an opportunity to explore and test a new role and working structure in direct response to the evolving needs and desires within Connecticut’s philanthropic community. Over the last 47 years, CCP has functioned as a network of various types of philanthropic organizations. CCP connects grantmakers Read more

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Ten Nonprofit Funding Models

Through our research, we have identified 10 nonprofit models that are commonly used by the largest nonprofits in the United States. Our intent is not to prescribe a single approach for a given nonprofit to pursue. Instead, we hope to help nonprofit leaders articulate more clearly the models that they believe could support the growth of their organizations, and use that insight to examine the potential and constraints associated with those models.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Financial Stewardship, Organization Learning and Evaluation 









The Center for High Impact Philanthropy Blog: How Can I Help?

In the wake of natural disasters, health crises, and violence donors often ask, “How Can I Help?” To shed some light on this question, we developed a blog series on a variety of different disaster relief and recovery topics.  

Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation, Resources









The Colorado’s Trust’s Advocacy Funding Strategy: Lessons Learned for Funders of Advocacy Efforts

In an effort to help advance the field of advocacy and public policy funding, The Colorado Trust published this evaluation report as a joint effort between funder and evaluator, describing where they saw success, where they saw failure, and lessons learned along the way.

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









The Grantmaker’s Role in Theory of Change

Innovation Network developed these three introductory evaluation documents as part of Building Nonprofit Capacity to Evaluate, Learn, and Grow Impact, a workshop we presented in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ Scaling What Works initiative.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









The Power to Produce Wonders: First Ever Report to Examine the Value of Family Participation in Philanthropy

Based on two years of research, this report is the first ever in-depth examination of the value of family philanthropy to the family, to communities and to democracy.

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Catagories: Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropy's History, Role in Society, Program Learning and Evaluation









The Real-Time Evaluation Memo: A Tool for Enabling Evaluative Thinking and Learning in Foundations and Nonprofits

Real-time evaluation memos provide data-based feedback in a timely manner to inform decision making. Memos must be concise and include both data and expert synthesis and interpretation. The foundation must have a learning culture if the memos are to most useful; there must be time to reflect on the content and implications. The balance between data quality and timeliness must be managed and will be dependent on the topic. While useful for program management, these memos do not provide the kind of summative information that board members and other stakeholders may require.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









The Reality of Measuring Human Service Programs: Results of a Survey

Nonprofits hoping to improve their programs’ services or reach must first understand their own effectiveness. Measurable numbers—how many meals served at a soup kitchen, how many students in a mentoring program graduate high school, what percentage of the target population does not have access to affordable housing—are critical data that can help organizations identify where they can improve their programs. The public conversation about measuring programs is often theoretical, focusing on what organizations could or should do rather than on tactics for success. At Idealware, we were curious about the opposite—what specific tactics are organizations using to measure their programs? Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Program Learning and Evaluation









The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Approach to Evaluation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has placed a high priority on program evaluation since its inception as a national philanthropy in 1972. It has developed a four-tiered system of evaluation that ranges from the evaluation of individual grants and clusters of grants to the qualitative assessments found in The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Anthology series.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation 









The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy.

Take a moment and read these two words: strategic plan. Now close your eyes and picture one. If what comes up is a thick binder, gathering dust on a shelf next to other thick binders from five and ten years past, you’re not alone. We believe that a better understanding of the history of strategy and what caused the demise of binder-bound strategic planning can point the way to re-inventing strategy for the world we live in today.

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team, Program Learning and Evaluation









The Strategy Landscape

Given the scale and complexity of the challenges they face, foundations increasingly need to look beyond their organizations to other stakeholders–both in philanthropy and across sectors–to mobilize sufficient resources and effort to move the needle on pressing social problems. Yet working together remains a challenge: simply knowing what other funders are supporting can require time-consuming research, meetings, and calls. As one foundation executive recently explained, “When funders come together for a day to talk about an issue, we spend 80 percent of the time talking about what we do, which leaves us with only 20 percent of the day to Read more

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Catagories: Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team, Program Learning and Evaluation









Theory of Philanthropy Inquiry Tool

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

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Catagories: Essentials, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Strategy and Evaluation









Three Cases of Better Corporate Philanthropy – Nike, Goldman Sachs, and Intel

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.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , General Grants , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









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

A study commissioned by The Kresge Foundation’s Arts & Culture Program finds that arts organizations have experienced a wide range of outcomes when acquiring low-cost or free buildings, also known as “$1 buildings.” In many cases, the actual costs of acquiring such buildings were much higher than organizations anticipated, according to the study, conducted by Boston-based Technical Development Corp.

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Catagories: Essentials, New Standards, Codes, and Ethics, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Strategy and Evaluation









Top Blogs That Enhance Learning in Philanthropy

At LearnPhilanthropy we’ve started collecting things…especially resources to help grantmakers develop their skills. The collection below is a list of fifteen blogs in philanthropy that can enhance your philanthropic learning. Learning of various sorts is a frequent topic discussed in these blogs and we thought a list like this might help LearnPhilanthropy users start your own collection of blogs to track. White Courtesy Telephone’s posts include perspectives on learning, education and training in the field of philanthropy. Philantopic is a blog of Opinion and Commentary from The Philanthropy News Digest Lucy Bernholz’s blog Philanthropy 2173: The Business of Giving shares her opinions Read more

Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Top 5 Lists









Trustee Evaluation Toolkit

Traditional approaches to foundation evaluation do not help trustees make informed strategic decisions. This toolkit offers new ways for trustees and foundations to better plan work, improve implementation and track progress toward goals.

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Catagories: Governance , Organization Learning and Evaluation , Organizational Development - Strengthening/Building Your Team









Use of Layering for Effective Partnership Building: Leveraging Positive Impact in Education Philanthropy

Federal initiatives provide opportunities to link national, state, and local partnerships. New opportunities create a challenge of how to maximize mission-related goals while also seeking out new partnerships. “Layering” allows core foundation goals to be addressed while further examining how building new partnerships can expand with national and federal opportunities. Each “layer” represents multiple sector partnerships at the local, state, federal, and national levels. Layering differs from collective impact in its focus on strategic alignment with existing work to new partners versus the focus on the partnerships and organizational behavior of those relationships. Building new partnerships with philanthropic, private, and Read more

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Using Community-Based Participatory Evaluation (CBPE) Methods as a Tool to Sustain a Community Health Coalition

Participatory evaluation has set the standard for cooperation between program evaluators and stakeholders. Coalition evaluation, however, calls for more extensive collaboration with the community at large. Integrating principles of community based participatory research and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Strategic Prevention Framework, which guides much coalition work, into coalition evaluation has proved useful to foster community affiliations and support reciprocal relationship building. The resulting evaluation method, named community based participatory evaluation (CBPE), takes time, money, and skilled personnel but can lead to more accurate results and coalition sustainability. The CBPE method has proved essential in sustaining two Read more

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Catagories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Impact?

Everybody’s talking about it. Individual donors, foundations, impact investors, and nonprofits all say they want it. But what do they all mean? This analysis examines the different ways people are using the term and the implicit assumptions that can prevent progress. It ends with the 3 key questions that enable donors to cut through the noise and stay on the path to making the positive difference in the world they seek. Although helpful to all donors interested in practicing high impact philanthropy, the analysis offers specific examples related to addressing the needs of women and girls, thanks to our collaboration Read more

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Catagories: Essentials, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches, Strategy and Evaluation









When You’ve Made Enough to Make a Difference

To achieve breakthrough changes, donors need a multiplier effect—an approach that delivers many dollars’ worth of impact for each dollar invested. In short, they need to develop an investment model. To do so, donors must understand two fundamental areas: the methods of change that breakthrough results require (such as scaling high-impact nonprofit organizations or changing government policy) and how they can best support those efforts—through the roles they play, the resources they devote, and the relationships they develop.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Organization Learning and Evaluation 









Why funding research is not enough

‘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

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , New Grants Management, Organization Learning and Evaluation , Philanthropic Models & Approaches









Working with Grantees: The Keys to Success and Five Program Officers Who Exemplify Them

Successful foundation-grantee relationships hinge on the prowess of individual program officers, whose abilities may vary widely within a single foundation. This research explores what grantees value in their relationships with program officers and identifies four keys to success. MORE Five high-performing program officers share their stories.

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Catagories: Beyond the Grant , Grantmaking, Organization Learning and Evaluation