Foundation Center as a "Knowledge Services" Organization

Foundation Center’s mission is to empower the philanthropic sector with the knowledge it needs to maximize the effectiveness of its work. Founded in 1956, no other organization in the world has our long experience in systematically collecting, indexing, and analyzing data on philanthropic investments; our deep substantive knowledge base on philanthropic outcomes; our state-of-the-art data management and visualization capabilities; our history of enduring and successful partnerships with hundreds of kindred organizations; and our capacity to deliver specialized training programs designed to increase organizational effectiveness. Almost alone in the field, Foundation Center is the essential partner that makes knowledge sharing happen on a global scale. As a knowledge services organization, Foundation Center is an integral component of a larger philanthropic ecosystem, not simply a vendor competing with others for clients. We aggregate data and information on behalf of the field, so that individual organizations don’t have to build their own data and information gathering systems from scratch. We believe that data and knowledge delivered in useful ways is fundamentally empowering. Data and knowledge are no longer optional if a foundation or nonprofit organization wants to work effectively.

A Global Organization

In recent years, Foundation Center has evolved from being primarily U.S.-focused to becoming a truly global organization. We have forged deep, substantive relationships with global, regional, and country-level organizations, partnering on a wide range of projects and collaborative initiatives around the world. Working, for example, with partners such as Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) and Donors and Foundations Networks of Europe (DAFNE), we facilitate the ability of such networks to share knowledge among the foundations and related organizations that make up their membership. Moreover, Foundation Center’s work with global partners on issue areas such as human rights; water access, sanitation, and hygiene; and the Sustainable Development Goals has dramatically extended its reach and reputation around the world. In an increasingly connected world, we believe that focusing on building stronger national, regional, and global networks will facilitate greater collaboration among philanthropic organizations and lead to more effective outcomes. With these ends in mind, all of our work is done in the service of building a global philanthropic sector that is networked in such a way that useful knowledge produced anywhere in the sector is discoverable by and accessible in useful and appropriate ways to everyone who needs it.

Foundation Center’s Global Goals

Foundation Center will implement its global strategy by drawing on its core competencies:

1. Providing access to knowledge resources and building capacity in areas such as fundraising, proposal writing, data strategies, knowledge management, leadership and management skills, in order to build strong, sustainable philanthropic organizations, associations, and networks.

2. Collecting and managing information and data on philanthropic activities and transforming it into knowledge services that help organizations do their work more effectively.

Our global goals are to:

1. Act based on understanding: Increase our understanding of the global philanthropic landscape and the in-country contexts within which philanthropy operates and ensure that they inform our work.

2. Promote knowledge sharing: Provide thought leadership and facilitate knowledge sharing efforts that help to build and disseminate a more comprehensive shared understanding of the global philanthropic landscape.

3. Engage in global conversations on data standards: Ensure that Foundation Center has a seat at the table in conversations with governments, the international system, and coalitions that are pushing to define emerging data standards with which foundation data will need to be comparable. With global partner organizations, promote the adoption and appropriate usage of relevant data standards and indicators.

4. Engage in strategic partnerships: Engage in global, regional, and national partnerships with key associations, foundations, implementing organizations, and others in order to strengthen organizations, create trust, increase transparency, and promote the development of an enabling environment for philanthropy around the world.

5. Facilitate the strategic development of a global philanthropic support network: Proactively shape the development and strengthening of a global network of philanthropic support organizations and provide network leadership to facilitate the timely exchange of knowledge and data relevant to the work of philanthropy.

6. Build the case for investing in data collection: Develop and communicate the ways in which capacity building, data collection, data sharing, and research can lead to increased philanthropic effectiveness.

7. Facilitate the development of capacity to collect and analyze data: Work with philanthropy and civil society organizations both in country and at the global and regional levels to understand specific data and knowledge gaps and associated capacity issues, and facilitate the building of local capacity to address these issues. Work with and provide technical assistance to local philanthropic organizations and associations to develop their own data collection processes and infrastructure.

8. Facilitate data collection: Work with in-country partners to facilitate the collection of quantitative and qualitative data on financial transactions, foundation activities, outcomes, and impact and organize it in ways that allow it to be accessed (e.g., through maps, online tools, and databases), aggregated, compared, and researched.

9. Provide knowledge services: Understand and develop appropriate responses to the philanthropic and civil society’s knowledge needs through capacity-building, training, technical support, research, tool creation, and other services.

10. Collaborate on key global projects: Participate in joint projects to illuminate the sector’s role in global development and facilitate greater philanthropic effectiveness.

11. Leverage global developments: Leverage global developments that provide opportunities for philanthropy to increase its global relevance and effectiveness (e.g., UN adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals).