How do grantmakers support scaling solutions to urgent social issues? What are the latest conversations about scale and impact in the social sector?
"Smarter Philanthropy For Greater Impact: Rethinking How Grantmakers Support Scale", a special supplement to the Spring 2014 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, helps answer these questions. Created for Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) this 23 page document takes a look back GEO's Scaling What Works initiative, and seeks to capture the latest thinking about how nonprofits, foundations, public funders, and social entrepreneurs can increase the impact of solutions to social challenges.
The report is made up of 11 articles written by thought leaders in the field. Below I've summarized each paper, and provided a key takeaway if available. Note that you can also read the print version of the report at any of the five main Foundation Center libraries.
- "What Would It Take?" by Kathleen P. Enright, president and CEO of GEO. Enright provides an overview of the findings from the Scaling What Works initiative. She outlines four fundamental grantmaker practices needed to foster impact: providing flexible funding over the long term, funding data and performance management abilities, investing in leadership and capacity building, and supporting movements as well as organizations.
- "Emerging Pathways to Transformative Scale" by Jeffrey Bradach and Abe Grindle of the Bridgespan Group. By reviewing the efforts of YearUp, a nonprofit that offers job training to disadvantaged urban youth, the authors identify nine approaches that can be utilized by emerging nonprofits tackling major social problems. Among these are unbundling and scaling up programs that have the greatest impact, using technology to reach larger audiences, and implementing effective for-profit models.
- "Pathways to Scale for a Place-Based Funder" by Katie Merrow, vice president of programs at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Merrow discusses the importance for funders to provide long-term investments to strengthen grantees, especially in rural areas. Long-term support allows grantees to put in place the needed infrastructure to scale up impact.
- "The Road to Scale Runs Through Public Systems" by Patrick T. McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Using the example of his foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, McCarthy tells us that in order to reach a scalable solution that provides a "meaningful, measurable result for a specific population" program replication is not enough; scaling has a better chance to succeed (and last) if it takes advantage of existing public systems.
- "From Innovation to Results" a conversation with Michael Smith, director of the Social Innovation Fund. Smith discusses how his government-led program strikes a proper balance between focusing on proven concepts, and finding "hidden-gem" solutions that may not get the attention they deserve.
- "Perspectives on the Social Innovation Fund" a conversation with Carla Javits, president and CEO of REDF. REDF is a grantmaking intermediary with the Social Innovation Fund and focuses on job creation in California. One nice takeaway is Javits' discussion on what it takes to build a good relationship between a private grantmaker and the government (public-private partnerships).
- "Partners in Impact" by Daniel Cardinali, president of Communities In Schools. Cardinali focuses on the importance of good relationships with funders, stating that it was vital to the success of his nonprofit, which started as a small entrepreneurial organization seeking to solve the drop out crisis and grew to a national group serving 1.25 million young people a year.
- "We Need More Scale, Not More Innovation" by Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment. Ross argues that foundations committed to social change need to focus on funding advocacy and organizing, and less on the search for new ideas. "The greatest impediment to solving urgent social problems is not lack of innovation" he states "but the inability to scale up solutions that we know work."
- "More Resources, More Co-Investors, More Impact" by Nancy Roob, president and CEO of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. Roob explains how her foundation's "growth capital aggregation" strategy is used to work with co-investors to provide capital and resources to organizations that have demonstrated strong evidence of success.
- "In Collaboration, Actions Speak Louder Than Words" by Jane Wei-Skillern, lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Wei-Skillern argues that in order to foster strong collaborations, foundations and nonprofits need to "change the way they work ... by putting the interests of a collaborative or network ... ahead of their individual organizations." Network leaders need to do three things: advance the overall mission, build relationships based on trust, and let go of control.
- "Leveraging a Movement Moment" by Lori Bartczak, vice president of programs at GEO.
The concluding article outlines the five different roles of a grantmaker in supporting movements for advancing social change. Bartczak also tells us that foundations need to have patience, since these things take time. She quotes Linda Wood of the Haas, Jr. Fund who states "progress ...involves exhilarating highs and crushing setbacks. As funders, we have to have the fortitude to hang in there, because the end goal of a more just and sustainable society is so important."
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