Alliance Breakfast Club – How much influence does philanthropy have?

Foundation professionals, academics, and NGOs discuss the nature of philanthropic influence and what limits, if any, should be imposed. Discussions are presented in three videos.

Categories: Field/Sector Learning and Evaluation 

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

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 study that used a similar design.  

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Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices

Developed in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation, Benchmarking Foundation Evaluation Practices is the most comprehensive data collection effort to date on evaluation practices at foundations. The report shares data points and infographics on crucial topics related to evaluation at foundations, such as evaluation staffing and structures, investment in evaluation work, and the usefulness of evaluation information.

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Better Together: Realizing the Promise of Collaboration in Family Philanthropy

This report explores unique challenges and opportunities, and offers a set of recommendations for how to realize the promise of working better together. The insights here are based primarily on in-depth dialogues about family philanthropy collaboration that occurred during the third National Summit on Family Philanthropy.

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Breaking Down Creative Placemaking

What exactly is creative placemaking? The simple answer is any artistic or creative effort to make a particular community stronger. There are literally hundreds of communities carrying out creative placemaking projects across the U.S. – and countless more around the world. Here are two particularly strong examples, both generously supported by The Kresge Foundation. .

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

This article discusses four areas where foundation exits present particular challenges and where there are significant opportunities to improve practice — deciding on and planning to exit, funder leadership, clear communication, and final grants — and includes summaries of advice from funder and grantee perspectives.

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Building and Supporting Sustainable Fields: Views from Philanthropy

This paper defines a field, provides examples of how funders build fields, lists the elements of a strong field, and discusses effective donor practices to promote sustainable fields.  The paper concludes with questions that can help to assess field strengths and needs, and a discussion of the best time to exit a field.

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Can Feedback Fuel Change at Foundations?: An Analysis of the Grantee Perception Report

This brief report presents key findings about Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Grantee Perception Reports over the years, and includes candid comments by RWJF’s leadership — CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey and Vice President of Research and Evaluation, David Colby — as to how they’ve responded to some of those findings.

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Changing in Place: The Skillman Foundation, Detroit, and the Good Neighborhoods Initiative — How did a hometown grantmaker conduct and conclude its largest-ever initiative?

To capture information on the unique challenges facing an embedded funder as it changes program direction, Bob Tobin, senior consultant at Williams Group, interviewed Marie Colombo, Skillman Foundation director for strategic evaluation and learning in this article of The Foundation Review.

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Changing roles in a changing world

Anthony Tomei writes about the changing global economic structure and how it relates to philanthropy: The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 seems to mark a symbolic moment at which the world changed. The changes were felt very differently in different parts of the world, but it seems likely that the resulting shift in the balance of economic power will turn out to be permanent. What about philanthropy? Five years on, how do things look? How have foundations responded?  Have they changed the way they see their role and the way they do things? These are the questions this Alliance special feature Read more

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Community Philanthropy: How the Delta Region Revives, Embraces, and Promotes the Spirit of Giving

This article reports on a survey of 31 small Arkansas communities of 5,000 to 15,000 in population using open-ended descriptive questions. Responses were compared across communities to assess variation in giving/fundraising, civic engagement, and leadership.

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

This article discusses how a private foundation, a public school system, and a state university joined forces to address a difficult, long-standing challenge: closing the academic achievement gap between urban and suburban students. The parties worked through multiple challenges and forged a Master Data Sharing Agreement (MDSA) that will facilitate both daily intelligence for program staff and powerful post-hoc research capacity. This MDSA text has been released online under a Creative Commons license (Community Research Institute, 2011a).

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End-Game Evaluation: Building a Legacy of Learning In a Limited-Life Foundation

This article shares the emerging hypotheses of two foundations, The Atlantic Philanthropies and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation — each four years from sunset — about the opportunities and challenges for evaluation in the limited-life context. The article argues that systematically capturing and sharing knowledge — about programs, as well as social-change methods and grantmaking practices — can increase a foundation’s influence and impact during its final years and beyond.

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Exiting From Large-Scale Initiatives: Lessons and Insights From a National Scan of Philanthropy

This article shares insights and lessons from a research project commissioned by The California Endowment in early 2016 to inform the planning for its transition out of Building Healthy Communities. A guiding framework for exit and sustainability planning is presented as a set of recommendations that relate to issues such as managing relationships between funder and grantee partners during the exit, using the initiative’s theory of change as a tool for decision-making, finding a balance between demonstrable success and equity, and managing the internal processes of the funding organization.

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Exposing Real World Philanthropy to the Next Generation of Social Work Leaders

This article describes a method for instructing social work students in the art of enhanced collaboration with foundations, shifting the focus from “writing a winning proposal” and “finding alternative funding sources” to “developing collaborative partnerships for sustainable community development and social change.” The program consists of four major steps: charitable foundation review and case presentation, self-guided review of real-world proposals, mock grant proposal development, and side-by-side proposal review.

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Global Philanthropy Data Charter

To realize this vision of improved data for deeper philanthropic impact and transparency, WINGS, Foundation Center, CENTRIS, and partners from around the world created and refined the Global Philanthropy Data Charter. The main objective of this revision is to make the document more accessible and provide concrete guidance on how to successfully engage in data-sharing processes.

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Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations exists to help grantmakers turn their desire to improve into real progress. That’s the power of the GEO community. With more than 5,000 grantmakers across the globe, we work together to lift up the grantmaking practices that matter most to nonprofits and that truly improve philanthropy. There’s no shortage of advice out there for grantmakers working to improve. There’s also no shortage of hurdles to making change. Since 1997, GEO has provided opportunities for grantmakers to come together to share knowledge and inspire each other to act. GEO members find value in making strong connections to Read more




Improving the Practice of Philanthropy

An Evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation’s Knowledge Creation and Dissemination Strategy. As part of the Hewlett Foundation’s evaluation of the $24 million it has invested to-date in knowledge creation and dissemination about philanthropic practice, the evaluation team used LearnPhilanthropy’s taxonomy to categorize the types of knowledge produced by its grantees.

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Key Facts on Foundation Evaluation

In 2017 Foundation Center surveyed a sample of U.S.-based foundations about whether they conduct evaluations, what they evaluate, and whether they share what they learn outside of their organization. This infographic lays out key findings from that survey.

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Philanthropy and Mistakes: An Untapped Resource

This article discusses how foundations and their nonprofit partners might think about failure and share their hard-learned lessons. The overarching argument of this article is that foundations face certain dilemmas in their grantmaking that are related to mistakes and that need to be acknowledged and reflected on.

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Philanthropy Scholarship and Practice – Bridging the Divide

Philanthropy scholarship has the potential to inform practice and policy so that societal wellbeing is enhanced and positive change achieved. How can we make this happen? This special feature suggests two possibilities and also documents some successful experiences of knowledge transfer that may serve as prototypes for bridging the divide.

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

This article documents the Tower Foundation’s experience funding evidence-based practice (EBP) programs and its work to measure the success of these initiatives. After funding EBPs in five consecutive grant years, it was time to take stock and assess the drivers of program success and failure. Learning from these, the foundation may better understand the demands and expectations that they put on grantees. Looking forward, foundations can assist, as Tower did, with direct support of implementations. They can also do things to make communities more EBP ready and EBPs more generally viable and affordable.

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Promoting Community Leadership Among Community Foundations: The Role of the Social Capital Benchmark Survey

This article examines the Social Capital Benchmark Survey organized by Robert Putnam and Lew Feldstein and funded by 34 community foundations. Six years later, 12 of the community foundations participated in the National Social Capital Learning Circle and reported that the survey results supported their community leadership work.

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

As more foundations and other grantmaking entities venture into self-evaluation, these methods should be examined in light of international funding relationships. In order to better understand how these tools and methods can be used internationally, the authors outline the opportunities presented when using frames as one basis for decision-making in complex situations.

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Reimagining Measurement A better future for monitoring, evaluation, and learning

Re-imagining measurement is an ongoing initiative to spur innovation in how foundations and nonprofits approach monitoring, evaluation, and learning. In the materials, you’ll find best thinking from the field about a path to a better future, and a toolkit with bright spots, leading edge practices to spread, and innovations to try.

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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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Shaping Inclusive Markets — How Funders and Intermediaries can Help Markets Move toward Greater Economic Inclusion

Truly inclusive markets lead to expanded opportunity for more broadly shared prosperity, especially for those facing the greatest barriers. With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, authors from FSG analyzed historical cases where such inclusive transformations actually occurred in order to understand the ways in which they were achieved. Using these insights, in this report they offer practical recommendations for funders and intermediaries seeking to enable more of these shifts in the future.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exit Strategies for Foundations

This editorial blog introduces a special issue of The Foundation Review on Exit Strategies. Foundations of various sizes and geographic foci share what they have learned about exiting with grace and impact.  

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Six Pathways to Enduring Results: Lessons from Spend-Down Foundations

A growing number of foundations and philanthropists have elected to give away their money by a fixed date rather than establish perpetual foundations. The paths they’ve chosen to take, and how they chose them, provide useful tips for other philanthropists on how they can align their giving with a path that best accommodates their goals.

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State of Evaluation 2016

The State of Evaluation project is the first nationwide project that systematically and repeatedly collects data from US nonprofits about their evaluation practices. Survey results are intended to build understanding for nonprofits, to compare their evaluation practices to their peers; for donors and funders, to better understand how they can support evaluation practice throughout the sector; and for evaluators, to have more context about the existing evaluation practices and capacities of their nonprofits clients.

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Stories and Lessons from 35 Years of Supporting the Community Foundation Field

The goal of this microsite is to share what the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has learned in more than 35 years of supporting the field, offer key insights, and highlight our legacy of partnering with community foundations in a way that advances the vital work they do to strengthen their communities. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the first community foundation in the U.S. This milestone brings with it both increased attention to the field of community philanthropy and the opportunity to demonstrate the significance of these institutions to the communities they serve.  

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The Alliance magazine June issue – Solidarity – more in common?

Solidarity – more in common? ‘We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’ These were the words of Jo Cox in her maiden speech to the UK Parliament on 3 June 2015. On 16 June 2016, just over one year later, Cox was murdered on her way to a meeting in her constituency. The Alliance special feature, guest edited by King Baudouin Foundation’s Stefan Schäfers, explores the complex and sensitive relationship between philanthropy and solidarity. Jo Cox’s murder was not just an affront to our common humanity but a Read more

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The Blind Men and the Elephant: Learning a Little at a Time About Civic Engagement

This article, written from the perspective of the evaluator, describes what happened in one community in which four noncollaborating funders were supporting community development programs.

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The Legacy of a Philanthropic Exit: Lessons From the Evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation’s Nuclear Security Initiative

This article describes how the findings of the NSI evaluation informed Hewlett’s philanthropic approach, and provides a case example of a philanthropic-initiative exit. Key considerations for monitoring and evaluation practices particular to the context of a planned exit are discussed.

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The Pioneer Portfolio and the Quest for the New New Thing

This introduction presents a glimpse into a new Anthology chapter that looks at RWJF’s Pioneering Portfolio, designed to explore the innovative ideas.

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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.

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

This article examines the emerging best practice of layering, a process and strategic alignment of building new, multiple sector partnerships at the local, state, federal and national levels that can expand with federal initiatives. These new opportunities create a challenge of how to maximize mission-related goals while seeking new partnerships.

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Valuing Social Return on Investment

This report seeks to identify and describe state-of-the-art approaches to valuing social returns on social investments (SROI), to review the organizational challenges to implementing an SROI measurement process, and to examine in detail organizations in the Netherlands and the United States that have attempted to use SROI measurements. The focus of each piece of the project was SROI methods and valuation in the health care field, specifically. In the conclusion, the report distills some best practices and practical tips for conducting SROI measurements.

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What Donors Value: How Community Foundations Can Increase Donor Satisfaction, Referrals, and Future Giving

CEP asked donors how satisfied they are with the community foundations with which they work. The research reveals that donor satisfaction is vital for community foundations. The data also show that the strongest predictors of donor satisfaction are donors’ sense of the foundation’s level of responsiveness when they need assistance and donors’ perceptions of the foundation’s impact on the community.

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