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Internal Communications: Strategies for an Overlooked—But Critical—Communications Channel

This recap of a presentation given at The Communications Network’s 2016 annual conference explains why internal communications are as important and necessary as external communications for the long-term impact and sustainability of your foundation. A framework and suggested activities are offered along with a handout and powerpoint presentation.







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How to Make Your Writing Clear and Concrete

Effective writing, whatever your field, shares some basic characteristics. It is Clear and Concrete, Courteous and Collegial, Current and Consistent, and Concise. We call these the seven C’s of effective writing. This article will address the first two C’s, Clear and Concrete, and share tips on how to state your case so others can understand it and respond.







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Site visits: A useful tool for effective and engaged grantmakers

This article discusses how site visits can help families to evaluate how well a grant already awarded is working in accomplishing the philanthropy’s goals. Visiting grantees, in an open and un-intimidating manner, can help you gauge the impact your grant is having on a given issue or organization, and to maintain ties to the community, which will help you to be responsive to its changing needs. It can also be a great way to remain actively involved with the organizations you fund, and a pressure-free way to introduce your children or other next generation family members to your philanthropy.





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The Truth About Site Visits

Site visits are a single but critical step in most agencies’ attempts to secure funding and implement programming. As with every step in that process “” from grantwriting to hiring employees “” preparation and planning are key to improving an agency’s chances for success in obtaining a grant. Most funders say there’s nothing in particular a nonprofit can do to guarantee that a site visit results in funding “” the people doing the site visit often only make recommendations about particular programs, while others decide who ultimately receives funding. But grantmaking employees interviewed for this article offered several rules of Read more





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Communication That Counts: Lessons From South African Social Investors

This guide offers practical lessons in communicating for impact based on the experiences of funders and others involved in social investment in South Africa. It explores universal themes related to how to communicate with partners, social investors, and grantees; how to identify and achieve communication goals; and how different media can help enhance different messages.







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Translations of GrantCraft Guides

While GrantCraft materials are developed in English, several guides and other resources are available in different languages. These materials have been translated by partnering organizations and adapted for use by native speakers. German, French, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic.





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“Getting the Word Out”: A Foundation Memoir and Personal Journey

This chapter is a personal reflection by Frank Karel on his years as vice president for communications of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He looks back on the early days, when the Foundation was groping to find an appropriate role for communications, and traces its evolution to the present. Long active in philanthropy, Karel helped many foundations consider how best to use the tools of communications.





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Are We There Yet? How to Know Whether Your Communications Are Effective

This article describes the results of a study on current knowledge and practices in evaluating foundation communications. The study consisted of three parts: an online survey of practitioners, a series of in-depth key informant interviews, and an extensive literature review. The study found that while most practitioners agree that evaluating communications is necessary to make decisions about their communication strategy, more than half did not regularly do so. Lack of experience or skills was the second top barrier cited, after lack of human/financial resources. Those who have more experience with evaluation were more likely to feel that it was not Read more





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Assessing Nonprofits’ Communications Capacity: An Online Self-Assessment Tool

Foundations increasingly recognize the importance of strategic and effective communications to advance their social-change goals. This article provides a framework that helps foundations to better understand the communications capacity of their grantee partners. Based on a detailed analysis of a survey of 529 foundations, universities and nonprofits, the authors created a six-point index that identifies the characteristics and practices of organizations that are ranked as highly effective at using communications to advance their goals. The six indicators are: Involvement of organization leadership in communications, communications planning and organization-wide planning, staffing and the use of outside expertise, donor understanding and support Read more





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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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Leveraging Social Networks in Direct Services: Are Foundations Doing All They Can?

Social networks are critical to physical and mental health, and they shape how people see themselves and their possible futures. Social networks represent an under-leveraged resource in social services’ efforts to alleviate poverty and other social challenges. Foundations may be unintentionally creating barriers to practice that leverages social networks by incentivizing individually-focused, highly specific services delivered in standardized, replicable ways. “Network-oriented” practice can help craft a new way forward that threads the needle between everything-is-different-for-everyone and everything- is-the-same-for-everyone. By focusing funding on efforts that build and support social networks, foundations can deepen and sustain the impact of their funding.





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Strategic Communications for Influence: Lessons From the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Its KIDS COUNT Initiative

This article describes how the Annie E. Casey Foundation is using the KIDS COUNT Network in a new way: as a strategic communications tool in its focused efforts toward policy change, broad social change, and improved conditions for vulnerable children and families. An outcome map illustrates links between this strategy and the intended outcomes. Case illustrations of KIDS COUNT grantee activities surrounding the release of the 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book describe the efforts of grantees in six states where the quantity and quality of media coverage surrounding the national data book reflected the kind of coverage that Casey believes Read more





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Speak Your Peace: A Communications Strategy for Changing Community Culture

Strategic communications can play a crucial role in advancing tangible community-wide impacts. “Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project” (SYP) was developed by The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation and the Millennium Group to improve the civility of public discourse, under the premise that this would strengthen community decision making, expand civic engagement, and increase residents’ interest in elected office. The SYP campaign promotes nine principles (or “tools”) adapted from Forni’s book Choosing Civility (e.g., pay attention, take responsibility, apologize, give constructive criticism). City councils, county commissions, and school boards in the region adopted the nine tools as ground rules for Read more





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Peer Networking and Community Change: Improving Foundation Practice

Key points: This article brings together the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 15 years of experience with peer networking— examining through two research studies the process of peer networking and its impact, both with community-based and funder groups. Peer networking helps people with common interests to exchange information, disseminate good practices, and build a leadership structure for work they do together, such as a community change initiative. Casey’s research identified 10 good practices for effective peer networking, as well as 10 challenges that can affect its success; a four-level model was created to provide context for these findings. The research indicates Read more