Beyond the Grant: How the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Went Beyond Grantmaking to Contribute to a Major Early Childhood Initiative

FavoriteThe W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s SPARK initiative sought to link the pre-kindergarten and school worlds as a way to position vulnerable children for greater success in the early grades. The initiative was also the foundation’s first attempt at a large scale initiative with an explicit changemaker role. This article describes the challenges for the foundation of adopting this approach.

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

FavoriteThis 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.  

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

FavoriteThis article examines a Gates Foundation report on a new Program Return on Investment (PROI) tool described herein simplifies monetizing the value of program outcomes and may be able to serve as a solution for valuation for all human service programs.

Enrolling the Eligible: Lessons for Funders

FavoriteThis article examines how The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation implemented Covering Kids & Families to increase enrollment in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It provides lessons to funders such as, consider the lifecycle of programs and organizations, the skills in coalition-building and working with public officials that are needed, and the need to fit political strategies with the local culture.

Evaluative Tools for Articulating and Monitoring Foundation Strategy

FavoriteWhile 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.

Foundation Evaluation Startup: A Pause for Reflection

FavoriteThis article reports on the accomplishments, challenges, and lessons learned in creating a new Department of Research and Evaluation at the California HealthCare Foundation. Different tools were developed to address each of three key areas: performance assessment, organizational learning, and program evaluation.      

International Programming, Local Development, and Youth: An Experience in Northeast Brazil

FavoriteThis article reports on a 10-year W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded program of local development work in selected geographic areas in Northeast Brazil. The greatest lesson was the fundamental importance of intentional strategies to bring all three sectors together, to attract and facilitate public and private sector involvement in civil society projects for local development and poverty reduction.

Is the Policy Win All? A Framework for Effective Social-Justice Advocacy

FavoriteThis article offers a theory-of-change framework to help those engaged in social-justice advocacy to reflect on whether social-justice values are being retained in the process. A reproductive rights effort in South Africa provides an example of how social justice values can be lost in the advocacy process.

Leadership Development in the Social Sector: A Framework for Supporting Strategic Investments

FavoriteIn this article is a framework for identifying the level of intervention (individual, team, organization, network, or system) and the level of impact (individual, team, organization, community, or field of policy and practice) is proposed as a tool for more strategic investing in leadership development.

Learning From an Adaptive-Consultative Approach: One Foundation’s Experience in Creating Systems Change in Education

FavoriteThis article describes a creative relationship between the Ball Foundation and the Rowland Unified School District. The Ball Foundation observed that grantees who had a closer relationship with them were more successful than those who had a more traditional relationship. The adaptive approach they adopted requires both the funder and the grantee to be committed to learning and adapting strategies as needed to respond to both results and changing contexts.

Learning-Circle Partnerships and the Evaluation of a Boundary-Crossing Leadership Initiative in Health

FavoriteThis article discusses learing-circles, a multicultural approach to evaluation that honors different ways of knowing, recognizes that groups have different learning questions, acknowledges and addresses power dynamics that exist between funders and grantees, and ensures that evaluation is culturally relevant and constructive for communities.  

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

FavoriteServices to those living in poverty or suffering from other challenges are increasing provided by highly educated specialists. Although much is known about the importance of social networks, foundations can inadvertently undermine these important. By focusing on building and supporting social networks, foundations can deepen and sustain the impact of their funding.

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

FavoriteThis article tells how 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 Quest for Quality: Lessons From a Certification Pilot Project for College Access Providers

FavoriteThe Lumina Foundation reports on a pilot test of a certification program for college access services. Funders considering supporting the development of certification of nonprofits should give careful attention to what organization should be the lead and to the scoring rubric. Including representatives of those who will apply for certification is critical.

Peer Networking and Community Change: Improving Foundation Practice

FavoriteThis article synthesizes two studies of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s peer-networking efforts. The research indicates that peer networking can have significant impact for communities and in meeting philanthropic goals, but it is costly and must be carefully structured if it is to be successful. The authors identify “time, trust and truth” as the bedrock of successful peer networking.