Peer to peer: At the heart of influencing more effective philanthropy

A Field Scan of How Foundations Use and Access Knowledge 

Opportunities for funders to learn from their peers is the single most trusted source of practice knowledge for grantmakers.

When staff and board members at foundations need trusted information about philanthropic practice, there’s one source that tops their list: their peers.

In a new, first-of-its-kind study of how U.S. foundations access and use knowledge about effective philanthropy, most foundation staff and board members shared that they rely on their peers and colleagues, as opposed to particular organizations or publications, both as their most trusted knowledge sources and as their preferred means to gather knowledge. External conferences, email, newsletters and grantee interactions are also cited by large majorities as how they most commonly seek knowledge about philanthropic practice. And — perhaps not surprisingly, given foundations’ increasing focus on outcomes over the past few decades – when asked about what aspects of philanthropic practice they want knowledge about, “evaluation and assessment” tops the list, with 44% citing it.

At a time when many foundations are focused on learning, and on sharing lessons to benefit others, this new study conducted by Harder+Company Community Research and Edge Research helps describe how funders are tapping into a knowledge “ecosystem” of researchers, media and peers to inform their thinking and practices. The field scan included a survey of foundation staff and board members with 738 respondents; 75 interviews of a representative sample of foundation staff and board members; and four in-depth case studies.

The survey was the first-of-its-kind because 11 of the sector’s major knowledge producers and disseminators collaborated on a shared measurement approach and included their audience email lists in the survey respondent pool. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation commissioned this research to inform its “Knowledge for Better Philanthropygrantmaking strategy.


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Content Partner: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation


Content Partner Website

https://www.hewlett.org


What are the main takeaways or key points from this resource?:

Opportunities for funders to learn from their peers is the single most trusted source of practice knowledge for grantmakers.


Publication/Event Date:

February 2017


Is your resource available to the public or only your members?:

Public


Authors(s):

Harder+Co Community Research and Edge Research


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Individual Professional Development