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376 posts categorized "Impact/Effectiveness"

Weekend Link Roundup (September 17-18 2016)

September 18, 2016

Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

End-of-summerCommunications/Marketing

Did the board of the Wounded Warrior Project blunder by firing CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giardano in response to allegations in the media that the organization was spending too much on itself and too little on those it was supposed to help? Forbes contributor Richard Levick reports.

Education

On openDemocracy's Transformations blog, Megan Tompkins-Stange, assistant professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School, University of Michigan and author of the recently published Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform and the Politics of Influence, argues that billionaire philanthropists are imposing their views on the rest of society with little or no accountability for their actions.

Giving Pledge

Dean and Marianne Metropoulos of Greenwich, Connecticut, are the newest members of the Giving Pledge club.

Grantmaking

Guest blogging on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Jessica Bearman, principal of Bearman Consulting and a consultant to the Grants Managers Network, suggests that foundations intentionally moving to integrate operations and program have five essential characteristics in common.

Grantseeking

On the GuideStar blog, Martin Teitel, author of The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants and a former CEO of the Cedar Tree Foundation, shares his six-step formula for winning a grant.

Health

The board of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), which was founded as an initiative of the Clinton Foundation in 2002 and became a separate nonprofit organization in 2010, has released a statement that lays out the changes that will be implemented if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States.

Higher Education

"Across every college sector and level of selectivity, women who received federal aid had lower annual earnings 10 years after entering higher education than the annual earnings of their male peers only six years after entering," a Center for American Progress analysis finds. And, writes CAP's Antoinette Flores, for "students from the nation's most elite colleges, men's earnings outpace women's by tens of thousands of dollars each year, with gaps showing up soon after they enter the workforce."

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln study indicates that 80 percent of college students send text messages during class, leading Joelle Renstrom, a teacher of writing at Boston University, to wonder whether there's any hope left for learning.

In a post for Slate, Cathy O’Neil, author of the recently released Weapons of Math Destruction, argues that the increasing reliance on algorithms is causing tuitions to rise faster than the rate of inflation, parents to worry, and kids to suffer. 

Here's a startling finding: A Public Agenda survey finds that just 42 percent of Americans say college is necessary for workforce success, a 13 percent drop from 2009, while 57 percent say there are many ways to succeed in today's world without a college degree, a 14 percent increase from 2009.

Impact/Effectiveness

Linda Baker, the new director of the Organizational Effectiveness program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, explains how the core values handed down by the Packards to the foundation's board and staff play out for the OE program.

A little tired of the hype around impact investing? With the fall conference season looming, Nonprofit Finance Fund CEO Antony Bugg-Levine, who admits to being "partly responsible for unleashing the beast," shares four tricks to help you get past the bulls**t.

While cynics have been known to argue that the principal reason nonprofits want to "measure impact" is to "inspire donors," that's not so much the case these days, writes Marc Gunther on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog.

Bugg-Levine isn't the only one who's weary of hype. In a post for Philanthropy Daily, Matthew Gerkin offers the "radical suggestion" that "the hype in the non-profit sphere about 'impact' and the supposed demand for it is largely fictional."

Philanthropy

It's been more than twenty years since the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals collaborated on a Donor Bill of Rights. The practice of philanthropy has changed dramatically since then, writes Denver Post columnist Bruce DeBoskey, who, with much credit to the authors of the original, offers an updated version.

In a post on the foundation's Equals Change blog, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker explores the nexus of power, privilege, and ignorance to explain how he and his colleagues failed to include people with disabilities in the foundation's new focus on inequality.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Caitlin Duffy explains how a high-profile pop-culture moment caused her to rethink her own "discomfort with Black rage and my own white privilege."  

On the GuideStar blog, GuideStar president Jacob Harold weighs in with an incisive analysis of the Clinton and Trump foundations.

And the New York Times reports that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is launching an investigation to determine whether the Trump Foundation has been in compliance with state laws.

Got something you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or post it in the comments section below....

Mind the Gap! Bridging Funder and Grantee Approaches to Measurement

September 14, 2016

Methods of measurementsOver the past thirty years, the total value of philanthropic assets in the United States has more than doubled, while the poverty rate has remained unchanged and income inequality has grown.

There are lots of reasons for this lack of progress, but facts like that make it hard to argue that foundations and nonprofits are successfully pursuing an anti-poverty mission.

At Root Cause, we believe a big reason nonprofits and foundations struggle to create the change we all seek is their failure to articulate the hypotheses underlying their approach to change, to use data to test those hypotheses, and to use the results of those tests to refine those approaches and build a body of evidence about what works.

For the past year, I've been making the rounds at regional and national conferences to talk about why measurement and evaluation matter. I've also had the chance to sit down with dozens of nonprofit and foundation leaders for extended conversations about what's at stake here.

The good news is that many foundation and nonprofit leaders share our point of view and have a real sense of urgency about using data and evidence to improve nonprofit practice and achieve better results.

The bad news is that everyone seems to be on a different page. Even among those pursuing a performance-measurement agenda, there is little in the way of dialogue, transparency, or knowledge sharing. Nonprofits develop theories of change in isolation, as if meaningful change happens through a single intervention here or a single intervention there, while funders articulate their own theories of change without much regard for what their grantees are doing.

The result: a boatload of metrics gets collected but neither funder nor grantee gains much insight into what works or how their efforts can be leveraged to drive real, systemic change.

What to do? We'd like to suggest the following:

1. Only track metrics on which you plan to act. If you can tell me what your nonprofit will do differently when a particular metric fails to meet expectations, chances are you're working with great data. Stay away from metrics that someone, somewhere along the way thought would be cool to track but can't be acted on. That's bad data.

2. Align the priorities of grantees and funders so that both want to see the same things being measured. Most of the data grantees collect are required by a second party — usually a funder or government agency. Sometimes these metrics lead to insights that are useful to the grantee. More often than not, they're only useful to the second party. Metrics that are only valuable to one party — whether funder or grantee — should be reexamined. Ideally, funders and grantees should co-develop a performance-measurement framework that can serve as the basis for learning and accountability.

3. Budget and pay for data collection, analysis, and reporting. It stands to reason that if a funder requires a metric to be reported, the grant funds should cover the cost of data collection, analysis, and reporting. At Root Cause, part of our performance-measurement work involves precisely mapping the capacity load for data collection, analysis, and reporting. Our clients — nonprofits and funders alike — typically underestimate the time and cost requirements for their measurement work, even though it is essential for ensuring that actual change is taking place.

For nonprofits, measurement is a critical opportunity to learn and refine their approach. For funders, measurement means understanding the relationship between your investment and the intervention you've chosen to fund. Nonprofits and funders need to engage in conversation up front about measurement — especially its costs. Funders who underestimate those costs can find that their data requirements morph into an unfunded mandate for grantees.

Full support for measurement is an essential ingredient in creating the culture of learning we believe is essential to producing better outcomes at a systemic level. You know that old cliché about the definition of insanity? Continuing to approach measurement with underfunded half measures is sure to produce the same result we've gotten for the past twenty years: too much noise and too little impact.

Headshot_Steve PrattStephen Pratt is a partner and the director of advisory services at Root Cause, a nonprofit that partners with other nonprofits, foundations, and governments to improve their outcomes, grantmaking, and people’s lives.Before joining Root Cause, Pratt served as CEO of two direct-service organizations, two capacity-building intermediaries, and a scholarship foundation, and also helped launch six nonprofits.

Weekend Link Roundup (September 10-11, 2016)

September 11, 2016

9-11-memorial-ceremonyOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

Half of the ten largest cities in the world, including New York, are already threatened by rising sea levels. And if Greenland becomes ice free, as is currently projected to happen in the next century, all bets are off. On the EDF blog, Ilissa Ocko looks at five other climate tipping points scientists are worried about.

Environment

Most of us don't think twice about tossing our old clothes. Which is a problem, writes Alden Wicker, because textile waste is piling up at a "catastrophic rate."

Higher Education

Harvard University has raised $7 billion since it launched its most recent fundraising campaign in 2013 -- and while that's good news for America's oldest university, it's bad news for higher education. Akshat Rathi reports for Quartz.

On the Aspen Institute blog, Josh Wyner and Keith Witham look at what policy debates over increasing college affordability and reducing student debt say about the value we as a nation place on a college education and its individual and societal benefits.

Impact/Effectiveness

On the Triple Pundit site, Nicole Anderson, assistant vice president for social innovation at AT&T and president of the AT&T Foundation, explains what the telecommunications giant has been doing to measure the social return on AT&T Aspire, its signature educational program.

Inequality

How have incomes in the U.S. changed over the last two decades. Quoctrung Bui and the crew at the New York Times' Upshot unit share some remarkable charts.

Is big data partly to blame for growing inequality in the U.S.? Cathy O'Neill, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, thinks so. Aimee Rawlins reports for CNN Money.

International Affairs/Development

"For the first time in human history, the end of hunger is...within our reach," writes former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on the CNN site. With the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation, Africa has witnessed a second agricultural Green Revolution, and in July Congress passed the Global Food Security Act, reaffirming the United States' commitment to ending global hunger, poverty, and child malnutrition. But, as Annan explains, there is more to be done.

Leadership

Nice post by NWB's Vu Le, who, in the wake of the recent passing of legendary Seattle community leader Bob Santos, reflects on the kind of leader our world needs at this fraught moment.

Nonprofits

On Beth Kanter's blog, Blackbaud's Steve MacLaughlin, author of the newly released Data Driven Nonprofits, argues that culture is the key to success for nonprofits looking to be more data driven. "The good news," he adds, is "there are multiple culture types that [can] create the right environment for data driven nonprofits to take shape and grow."

In his latest post, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther looks under the hood of the new advisory system unveiled by charity rating service Charity Navigator and finds that while it brings CN "a bit closer to fulfilling its...mission to guide intelligent giving [and thus] advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace,...like the rest of the site, [it] is of limited use."

Philanthropy

Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Lisa Ranghelli, senior director of assessment and special projects at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, suggests that "in a world of finite philanthropic resources for social change...it become increasingly important to think about inclusion more holistically — how foundations relate to nonprofit organizations both individually and collectively, and how they relate to the targeted beneficiaries that those organizations serve and engage."

Sylvia Yee, who recently stepped down as vice president of programs at the Evelyn and Walter J. Haas, Jr. Fund after twenty-three years with the fund, reflects on her time with the foundation and the leadership of its longtime president, Ira Hirschfield, who has also announced his retirement.

Public Affairs

Mitt Romney's remark to a meeting of wealthy donors in 2012 disparaging the 47 percent of Americans who are "takers" (i.e., don't pay federal taxes) not only cost him the election, it misrepresented an important aspect of social-safety net policies in this country, writes Jeff Guo in the Washington Post: the so-called 47 percent "are not some permanent underclass of dependents" but average Americans who, for the most part, only use such programs as a stop-gap measure.

Tax Policy

Donating shares of appreciated stock to a nonprofit or donor-advised fund administered by a tax-exempt entity has become the norm in tax efficiency for many donors, writes Forbes' contributor Robert W. Wood. But the fact that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have begun to donate significant amounts of Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an LLC, "makes the Zuckerberg-Chan charity planning model a unique one, with not everything as tax exempt as a typical charity."

Transparency

Last but not least, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Kevin Bolduc revisits 100&Change, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation competition through which a $100-million-dollar prize will be awarded to "one good idea," with a focus on the transparency of the competition's selection process.

On this, the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we remember all those who lost their lives on that terrible day. 

Got something you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or post it in the comments section below....

Weekend Link Roundup (September 3-5, 2016)

September 05, 2016

Ball_and_racket_headOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Social Responsibility

The landscape of corporate philanthropy is changing — for the better. Andrea Hoffman, founder and CEO of Culture Shift Labs, looks at one Wall Street firm determined to change the existing stock-buyback paradigm.

Disaster Relief

In aftermath of the recent flooding in Louisiana, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate's Rebekah Allen and Elizabeth Crisp look at how crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe are disrupting the traditional disaster relief funding model.

Education

In the New York Times, Christopher Edmin, an associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and the author of For White Folk Who Teach in the Hood ... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, challenges the idea that the answer to closing the achievement gap for boys and young men of color is to hire and retain more black male teachers.

Fundraising

Wondering how to get the public solidly behind your cause? Of course you are. Regular PhilanTopic contributor Derrick Feldmann shares some good tips here.

Higher Education

As the call for institutions of higher education to diversify their curricula grows louder, maybe it's time, writes the University of Texas' Steven Mintz on the Teagle Foundation site, for colleges and university "to embrace the Great Books spirit and delve into the most problematic aspects of our contemporary reality through works that speak to our time and perhaps all time."

Impact/Effectiveness

The Organizational Effectiveness program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has launched an Organizational Effectiveness Knowledge Center designed to be a space where nonprofits, funders, and others can "exchange learning, resources, and reflections about improving nonprofit organizational and network effectiveness."

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (August 20-21, 2016)

August 21, 2016

Rain-south-la-9a-jpgOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Civic Engagement

On the Carnegie Corporation website, the corporation's Geri Mannion and Jay Beckner of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation chat with Carnegie Visiting Media Fellow Gail Ablow about how foundations can support voting rights litigation.

Community Improvement/Development

The Rockefeller Foundation and Unreasonable Institute, which works to identify entrepreneurs with the potential to address social injustice at scale, have announced the launch of the Future Cities Accelerator, a $1 million urban innovation competition aimed at spurring next-generation leaders to develop solutions to complex urban problems. Though the competition, ten winners will receive $100,000 each and will participate in a nine-month intensive program giving them access to business leaders, investors, and technical support. Details here.

The Knight Foundation is bringing back its Knight Cities Challenge for a third iteration and will offer $5 million in grant funding for the best ideas in three areas that are crucial to building more successful cities – attracting and retaining talent, increasing economic opportunity, and promoting civic engagement. The competition, which is limited to the twenty-six Knight communities, opens Monday, October 10, at knightcities.org and will close on Thursday, November 3, with winners to be announced next spring.

As part of Generocity's "Leaders of Color" series, Tony Abraham profiles David Gould, a program office at the William Penn Foundation, who has a plan for leveling the playing field for people of color in Philadelphia. You can check out the rest of the series here.

What can we learn about creative placemaking from Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities)? As the Saint Luke's Foundation's Nelson Beckford reminds us, pretty much everything.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Think the concept of sustainability is a little too fuzzy to serve as a pillar of one's corporate strategy. Think again, argues the Environmental Defense Fund's Tom Murray.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (July 23-24, 2016)

July 24, 2016

Bulldog-on-ice1Our weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Community Improvement/Development

In the New America Weekly, Heron Foundation president Clara Miller explains how the foundation's recent work in Buffalo, the fourth poorest city in the nation, "started as a response to a Heron board member's referral of the local community foundation" and led to the foundation becoming a trusted neutral convener and connector "for a number of contingents in the community."

On the Knight blog, Lilly Weinberg Lilly Weinberg, program director for community foundations at the Knight Foundation, shares three takeaways from a recent convening of twenty civic innovators who've received grants of $5,000 to implement a project in a calenadr year that improve mobility, a public space, or civic engagement in their home cities.

Criminal Justice/Policing

Reflecting on the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minnesota, five police officers in Dallas, and three police officers in Baton Rouge, Open Society Foundations president Chris Stone suggests that the divide between black America and American policing is in part the "legacy of slavery, the legacies of Jim Crow, of lynching, of the repression of the civil rights and black power movements, the legacy of the war on drugs" -- and that efforts to close it must include solutions to racial disparities and the building of mutual trust between African Americans and local police departments.

Environment

Here on PhilanTopic, we featured a pair of great posts this week  -- one by Frank Smyth and the second by Maria Amália Souza -- on the noble, unheralded, and frequently dangerous work done by environmental activists in the global South.

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A Conversation With Steve Case: The 'Third Wave' and the Social Sector

June 23, 2016

Anyone of a certain age remembers when free America Online software — delivered on 3.5" floppy disks and then in CD form — seemed to arrive in the mailbox on an almost-daily basis. Although its genesis was in online gaming, the company soon evolved into an online services company and, by the early 1990s, was one of the leaders of the tech world, innovating and helping to build the infrastructure for the online world we know today. In the words of the company's co-founder and former chair, Steve Case, AOL was part of the "first wave" of innovation driven by the Internet.

By the early 2000s, a "second wave" of Internet-enabled innovation featuring apps and mobile phone technologies had sparked a new communications revolution, with companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook leading the way and birthing a new generation of billionaires. Even as this second wave was cresting, however, a third wave of innovation was forming in its wake. In his new book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future, Case lays out his vision of an emerging era in which almost every object is connected to the Internet and the network of all networks "stops belonging to Internet companies.…The entrepreneurs of this era are going to challenge the biggest industries in the world, and those that most affect our daily lives. They will reimagine our healthcare system and retool our education system. They will create products and services that make our food safer and our commute to work easier."

PND spoke with Case, who chairs the Case Foundation and, with his wife, Jean, is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, about what these changes mean for the social sector and how nonprofits, large and small, can partner with business and government to solve some of our most pressing challenges.

Headshot_steve_casePhilanthropy News Digest: What you have labeled the "third wave" of Internet-enabled innovation will affect many areas of interest to the social sector, including health and health care, education, and food and agriculture. Do you see this next wave of innovation as a boon for nonprofits and social entre­preneurs?

Steve Case: I think it can be. Obviously, there are different folks focusing on different things in different ways. And there will always be an important role for nonprofits to deal with issues that, frankly, only nonprofits can deal with. But some of the sectors you mentioned — health care and education, food, agriculture — I think there's a role there for entrepreneurs to build companies that can have an impact.

One of the big things I talked about in the book — and which the Case Foundation has been championing for years — is the importance of partnerships. Partnerships between startups and other organizations — whether it's other companies, nonprofits, or government — will become more important in the nonprofit sector generally and will have a significant and, I think, positive impact on some of the sub-sectors you mentioned.

PND: The Case Foundation has always emphasized the importance of working across sectors. How do you think the changes brought about by the third wave of Internet-enabled innovation will affect its own work?

SC: I think we'll continue on the path we've been on. We've been talking about some of the issues around cross-sector collaboration for the nearly twenty years the foundation has been around. In the last few years, we've focused on things like impact investing, inclusive entrepreneurship, leveling the playing field so every entrepreneur who has an idea has a shot, and we'll continue with those efforts and try to use all the levers available to us.

Jean [Case] has spent a lot of time on impact investing. Part of her focus is advocating for policy changes that actually free up and expand more impact investing capital. The kinds of things we're focused on at the foundation are very much in sync with the kinds of things I address in the book.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (May 14-15, 2016)

May 15, 2016

Joe-dimaggio_display_imageOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

Brain development in young children is critical to their readiness for school and success later in life. "But preventable poverty and toxic stress can impede and derail a child's early brain development," write Marian Wright Edelman and Jackie Bezos on the Huffington Post's Politics blog. Which is why, "[i]n addition to quality interactions with parents, grandparents and other caregivers, young children need access to a full continuum of high quality early learning opportunities...."

Climate Change

Where's the beef? More to the point, asks Marc Gunther on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, why aren't environmental groups working actively to reduce meat consumption and the number of factory farms, two of the biggest contributors to global warming?

Corporate Philanthropy

In Fortune, American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern shares what she has learned over eight years in that position about what business and nonprofits can teach each other.

Data

On the Hewlett Foundation's Work in Progress blog, Sarah Jane Staats has five questions for Ruth Levine, director of the foundation's Global Development and Population Program, about the existing gender gap in data.

Education

How can we fix public education in America? The answer, says the Grable Foundation's Gregg Behr in a Q&A with Forbes contributor Jordan Shapiro, starts with the way kids learn.

On her Answer Sheet blog, the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss has the second part of an email conversation between noted education reform critic Diane Ravitch and hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, a supporter of such efforts. And if you missed the first part of the conversation, you can catch up here.

Have school-choice policies solved the problem they were meant to address -- namely, the strong link between a child's educational outcomes and the neighborhood conditions in which he or she has grown up? The Washington Post's Emma Brown reports.

Continue reading »

What We Learned About Collective Impact Through Raising the Blended Catalyst Fund

March 31, 2016

Community_building3At Living Cities we are looking beyond grants to focus on blending all types of capital to get better outcomes for low-income people, faster. One of the primary tools we have is the Catalyst Fund, a pool of philanthropic capital that we have used to fund the acceleration, scaling, and replication of promising practices. Based on what we learned from the Catalyst Fund, we recently raised our second fund, the Blended Catalyst Fund, which blends grants, philanthropic debt, and commercial lending from ten different investors. It's exciting to be able to bring together a diverse set of investors for a common purpose. But the diverseness of our investors also meant they each came to us with a different set of goals and restrictions, and as a result we had to overcome some challenges before we could close our fund. The challenges were similar to those faced by many organizations leading a cross-sector partnership.

Here are four things we learned about collective impact through raising our newest fund:

1. Be clear about the "why." What are you hoping to do collectively that participants can't do on their own? In our case, we assumed that because of our investors’ involvement in Living Cities, they already intuited our why. It wasn't until we were able to articulate what we wanted to do together that our investors fully bought into the idea of a new fund. We realized that you're never really past the why. The why is the shared end-game that we all want to achieve, so articulating it is the most crucial component to getting everyone on the same page and the key to keeping all your participants engaged. When we bring potential investments for the Blended Catalyst Fund to our investors now, we are purposeful about emphasizing the impact and innovation, because that is our why.

2. Allow and expect your partners to articulate their own positions and concerns. When we first started building our fund, we — like many "backbone" or intermediary organizations at the center of cross-sector partnerships — believed we had to be the main interpreters and speak for our investors. We were operating in a hub-and-spoke manner. Instead of acting as a network, we were having one-on-one conversations to understand individual investor concerns. As we saw two groups of investor interests emerging, we continued the individual relationships and acted as a messenger between the groups, negotiating with each party, controlling the conversation and what was happening. When we opened up the process and asked our investors to voice their own opinions and concerns, it not only helped build trust within the group, but it also built our investors' trust in us. After the change in our approach, we had valuable discussions with investors setting expectations for what each wanted out of the fund, discussing how much risk each was comfortable taking on, and pushing each other to stretch.

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Measuring Outcomes Across Grantees and Over Time

March 22, 2016

Results1When the Jim Joseph Foundation's evaluators’ consortium met last November, the overall focus was on the long road ahead toward developing a common set of measures — survey items, interview schedules, frameworks for documenting distinctive features of programs — to be used as outcomes and indicators of Jewish learning and growth for teens and young adults. Consortium members and the foundation were especially excited to learn about the work led by George Washington University to develop a common set of long-term outcomes and shared metrics to improve the foundation's ability to look at programs and outcomes across grantees and over time. A key part of this endeavor will be an online menu — developed in consultation with evaluation experts and practitioners — from which grantees can choose to measure their program outcomes.

Already, the GW team is making significant progress toward this end. As part of foundation efforts to inform and advance the field, we think the process and lessons related to these efforts are important to share.

To begin, the GW team reviewed the desired outcomes and evaluation reports from a dozen past foundation grants representing a variety of programs. Six grants address the foundation's strategic priority of providing immersive and ongoing Jewish experiences for teens and young adults. Six others address the strategic priority of educating Jewish educators and leaders.

For this latter strategic priority, the GW team offers a welcome "outsider" perspective, bringing strong expertise on outcomes in secular education and teacher training to the development of common outcomes for the foundation's Jewish educator grants. How, for example, do other programs measure quality and teacher retention? Both of these qualities are desired outcomes for the foundation's grants. Yet, if these qualities are not measured with common metrics, the foundation will never be able to properly determine whether its grantmaking in this area is successful. GW's expertise and strong relationship with the foundation are beginning to provide important answers to these challenges.

Continue reading »

A Conversation With Fred Ali, President/CEO, Weingart Foundation

March 18, 2016

Fred Ali is president and CEO of the Southern California-focused Weingart Foundation, where he is drawing on past experience as a nonprofit executive to recast the relationship between a foundation and its grantees and has become a champion of the movement to cover full costs and provide nonprofits with unrestricted flexible funding. In this latest installment in a series of conversations with foundation leaders, Ali and Nonprofit Finance Fund CEO Antony Bugg-Levine discuss money, power, influence, and outcomes.

Antony Bugg-Levine: The Weingart Foundation is known for providing unrestricted support — a rarity in the world of philanthropy. What led you down this path?

Headshot_fred_aliFred Ali: My own experience as a nonprofit executive has always guided my thinking. When the financial crisis hit, I remember the board meeting where I was asked, "What do we do now?" I made the argument for unrestricted support, and it really made sense to the board. We brought in some of our grantees, as well, to help design our approach. Our board has always appreciated when they hear from the field.

A lot of people said that nonprofits would just take the unrestricted money and invest it in programs, because demand was growing exponentially and it is in nonprofits' DNA to put programmatic needs first. And in our first round of unrestricted grantmaking, that's exactly what we saw. Then we started to see a shift. Based on the questions our program officers were asking, what we started to see — and what we continue to see — is that nonprofits recognized that these were very special dollars. We started seeing organizations use these dollars to invest in their infrastructure, to bring back the financial management position that was lost or the development person they needed, and it was heartening.

ABL: How do you balance the philosophy behind giving grantees the autonomy to do what they know how to do best while at the same time meeting your own need — and your board's need — to know the impact of those dollars?

FA: When we made our decision to devote the bulk of our funding — now over 60 percent — to unrestricted funding, it immediately raised the question of impact measurement. After a few years of hard work, we recently announced a new assessment framework for our grantees that evaluates organizations on nine functional areas, including board governance, financial operations, fund development, staff and infrastructure, client and constituent engagement, diversity, cultural competence, organizational strategy and adaptability, and executive leadership. With the assistance of Paul Harder and Company, we co-created the framework with our grantees. We wanted a framework aligned with our core values as a responsive grantmaker. We wanted a process that maintained a commitment to transparency and practical, actionable learning. And we wanted something that would not create undue burdens on grantees or on our own staff but that would provide us with useful information. Our theory of change is that if you give a reasonably managed, well-governed, strategically focused nonprofit organization flexible, unrestricted dollars, good outcomes will follow.

ABL: The framework gives you a way to determine whether an organization is more effective over time, but how do you measure the contribution your grant made to that effectiveness? Many funders are concerned about attribution versus contribution if they were to move to more general support. How do you and your board approach that issue?

FA: The system we have designed understands the complex nature of assessing contribution to impact. We've developed a process to understand the growth in organizational effectiveness over time. And it starts with the questions we ask in the application process. Then, when a program officer makes a funding recommendation, they complete a detailed assessment based on their perception of where the grantee is against the nine functional areas of our framework. That provides a baseline. At the conclusion of the grant period, we ask the grantee to complete an online assessment, which gives them the opportunity to talk about where they are on those nine areas, and about big-picture organizational goals, and whether or not they are able to attribute the use of our unrestricted funds to any movement in those areas. The program officer receives that information, compares it with his or her initial perception, and then has a discussion with the grantee around the growth that has been achieved and areas of continued need. Last but not least, the program officer completes a closeout report that serves as the application for a new grant. Although it’s still early in the process, things seem to be going well for both grantee and program staff.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 12-13, 2016)

March 13, 2016

The-Round-UpOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

Looking for a good collection of juvenile justice resources? The Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, a leader in the field, has published this on its blog.

Climate Change

On the Humanosphere site, Tom Murphy asks the question: Will the Global Climate Fund falter before it gets off the ground?

Education

In the New York Review Books, historian of education and author Diane Ravitch reviews Dale Russakoff's The Prize: Who's In Charge of America's Schools? and Kristina Rizga's Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail it, and the Students and Teachers Who Made it Triumph and finds both to be "excellent." Together, Ravitch adds, the two books also "demonstrate that grand ideas cannot be imposed on people without their assent. Money and power are not sufficient to improve schools. [And genuine] improvement happens when students, teachers, principals, parents, and the local community collaborate for the benefit of the children...."

Environment

Nonprofit Chronicles' Marc Gunther has written a must-read post about the recent assassination of Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres -- and what U.S. funders can do to combat the organized campaign of terror and intimidation being waged against environmental activists in Honduras: 1) Demand that Berta Cáceres' killers be brought to justice; 2) provide more support for grassroots activism; and 3) recognize/acknowledge the connections between the environment and human rights.

Fundraising

In Forbes, Russ Alan Prince recaps the seven wealthy charitable donor types.

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The Three Sources of Foundation Influence

March 09, 2016

Infleunce_magnetMoney, convening power, and knowledge give philanthropic foundations enormous influence and underlie their unique position in our socioeconomic ecosystem. Endowed by a wealthy family or individual, foundations are blissfully free from the kinds of pressures that drive short-term behavior in other sectors. They don't have to raise money from venture capitalists, the financial markets, or other foundations. They never awake to the terrifying news that that their business is threatened by a new competitor. And they don't have to kiss babies in order to garner votes.

Like grizzly bears, lions and tigers, foundations have no natural predators.

Despite this enormous freedom, many foundations traditionally have professed humility and maintained a low profile — either because of their donor's wishes, a belief that it's their grantees that do the real work, or because of the personality of their leader. Increasingly, however, foundations are waking to the enormous potential they have to wield influence in their home cities, countries, and around the world. And encouraging others to adopt their causes, strategies, and ways of working is coming to be seen as the way foundations can increase their impact many-fold.

Let's look more closely at the three sources of foundation influence.

Flexible money

First and foremost is money. Foundations have an abundance of what nonprofit organizations, social entrepreneurs, and the social sector writ large chronically lack. Nonetheless, they tend to be conflicted about their wealth: foundations will tell you without much prompting how many millions or billions in assets they have, only to claim in the next sentence that their resources are small in relation to the world's problems. Collectively, the nearly $800 billion held by American foundations pales in significance to the hundreds of trillions coursing through the international capital markets. But that misses the point.

Foundation money is one of the last remaining sources of capital on earth without a significant claim on it. As a result, the dollars granted, loaned, or invested in social and environmental causes have tremendous potential for leverage. Public institutions may have large budgets, but in most cases those funds are so thoroughly earmarked that they are left with virtually no "risk capital." Talk to any foundation professional who has answered a call to form a partnership with a government agency, the World Bank, or any other large multilateral institution and she inevitably will express surprise about being asked for a grant. Indeed, many of the private-public partnerships that are viewed as the key to impact and bringing an initiative to scale began with a small foundation grant that served to lever more significant public funding.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (February 2016)

March 01, 2016

A couple of infographics, a book review by Matt, a short Q&A with the MacArthur Foundation's Laurie Garduque, an oldie but goodie from Michael Edwards, and great posts from Blake Groves and Ann Canela — February's offerings here on PhilanTopic beautifully capture the breadth and multiplicity of the social sector. Now if we could only get it to snow....

What did you read/watch/listen to last month that made you think, got you riled up, or restored your faith in humanity? Share with the rest of us in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 28-29, 2015)

November 29, 2015

Fall Leaves Oak Frost  11 05 09  019 - Edit-2 - Edit-SOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

The CEOs from 78 companies and 20 economic sectors have issued an open letter on the World Economic Forum site calling upon "governments to take bold action at the Paris climate conference (COP 21) in December 2015 to secure a more prosperous world for all of us."

Giving

On the Giving in LA blog, John Kobara, executive vice president and COO of the California Community Foundation, citing the latest findings from neuroscience, notes that our brains have a philanthropic center, powered by oxytocin, that requires regular exercise. "The more we test our biases, certainties and assumptions by directly experiencing our feelings and expressing our compassion," writes Kobara, "the more we energize our philanthropic brains. Our philanthropy gets humanized and embodies the definition of philanthropy — our love for one another...." 

On Giving Tuesday, crowdfunding platform Crowdrise will launch its second-annual Giving Tower campaign, the centerpiece of which will be a virtual tower made up of bricks that represent donations made to participating charities. Megan Ranney reports for Mashable.

And a nice reminder from Money magazine's Kerri Anne Renzulli that there are ways to give to charity this holiday season other than giving cash.

Higher Education

"Low-income high school graduates were far less likely to enroll in higher education in 2013 than in 2008, a downward trend that came at the same time the Obama administration was pushing to boost college access and completion," a new analysis of Census Bureau data finds. The Washington Post's Emma Brown reports.

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