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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?

The initiative concluded in 2016, ultimately spanning 11 years and involving $122 million in grants, which represented 67 percent of the Foundation’s total grant spending in this time frame. Along the way, the foundation reset its strategy and sharpened its goal — in response to seismic shifts in the local context and informed by indicators of progress. 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.





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

Few, if any, of the problems philanthropy seeks to address can be solved within a brief, defined time frame. Limited-life foundations can only strive to move the ball down the field before they sunset, and then enlist others to carry the work forward. 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 Read more





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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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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

  Funding relationships begin, and they end. Yet little is known about the effects of foundation exits on the work, the grantees, and the related fields. This article draws on interviews with funders and grantees involved in more than a dozen exits to fill the gaps in what is known about how to exit well. The 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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Evaluation at Sunset: Considerations When Evaluating a Program as It Concludes

This article uses the evaluation of the Orfalea Foundation’s initiative to provide a case example of a rigorous and useful sunset evaluation, and discusses other possible extensions of these kinds of methods.





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

Although time-bound philanthropic initiatives are a well-established practice, there is still much to learn about effective ways to implement, evaluate, and wind down these types of investments. This open-access article describes the NSI evaluation, how the findings 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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Making Data and Evaluation Work for Foundations and Nonprofits

This blogpost compares evaluation capacity within funding and nonprofit organizations. It suggests three things foundations (and nonprofits) can do to improve their ability to get more from evaluation: Ask grantees about their evaluation capacity; Consider data quality; and Support data and evaluation.  







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Core Components of Organizing Evaluation

This resource details Bolder Advocacy’s research where seven key components of organizing evaluation emerged across different styles and approaches.





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Evaluation Benchmarks

The Beldon Fund established a set of performance benchmarks for success based on whether its programs were increasing the effectiveness of its grantees and drawing more resources to the field as a whole. They list the indicators the foundation developed to measure the impact of its portfolios.





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Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing

The “Mapping the Journey to Impact Investing,” report researched and drafted by The Giving Practice’s Senior Partner Jan Jaffe, charts the journey from the time the Surdna Foundation board of directors and staff began exploring impact investing in 2014 to the decision-making process and experience of implementing impact investing policies. “The Surdna Foundation’s founder, John E. Andrus was committed to inclusion, social justice and sustainability,” said Peter Benedict II, Surdna Foundation’s board chair. “By sharing our experience and some of the lessons we learned in this report this centennial year, we will contribute to collective learning in the fields of Read more





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Time to Evaluate! Getting to Assessment and High Performance

Nonprofit organizations — and foundations — talk a lot about accountability. And one of the best ways to be accountable is to demonstrate impact. While we would be hard pressed to think of a nonprofit organization that does not want to demonstrate impact, the all too true situation is that the vast majority of nonprofits struggle to do just that. At the heart of the problem are five practices that stymie nonprofit (and philanthropic) attempts to collect and use data to make important decisions, to improve outcomes, and ultimately to demonstrate impact.





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35 Keys to Effective Evaluation

As the need for scarce grant dollars grows more intense, so does the need to make certain those dollars are spent as effectively as possible. Hence the question of how to evaluate the consequences of grant supported activities has risen to the forefront.







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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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Funding the Extraordinary: An Evaluation of the Kresge Foundation Arts and Culture Program’s Institutional Capitalization Grantmaking

This report showcases NFF’s evaluation of 36 capital grants made by the Kresge Foundation to arts organizations between 2010 and 2012. To see two executive summaries that distill findings from this report, see “Building a Culture of Capitalization in Your Organization” and “Recommendations for Capital Grantmakers.”





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Supporting Social Entrepreneurship

For philanthropists accustomed to more traditional grantees, yet interested in backing these groundbreaking leaders, funding social entrepreneurs can feel like entering uncharted territory. Donors might find themselves intrigued by the potential for change, and yet, at the same time, unsure of what to expect in a field where the unexpected is the norm.   That’s why we wrote this brief guide. Think of it as an introduction to social entrepreneurship. Part of our Philanthropy Roadmap series, the guide is designed to help philanthropists evaluate whether they want to include support for social entrepreneurs in their giving or investment programs, and Read more