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Practice Matters: The Improving Philanthropy Project

Gain new perspective, useful advice, and best practice know-how on the central issues facing grantmakers today…download our ten-part series for free!

Download Adobe Acrobat The titles in the Practice Matters series are available free of charge and may be downloaded in PDF format, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.


10 - The Evaluation Conversation: A Path to Impact for Foundation Boards and Executives by Patricia Patrizi urges grantmakers to rethink the role of evaluation in philanthropy and turn it into a vital institutional tool to achieve philanthropic purpose and improve strategy.

Text of Paper

9 - Philanthropies Working Together: Myths and Realities by Robert Hughes takes up the question of foundation individualism and examines the gap between the rhetoric and real incentives of collaboration.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide

8 - Communications for Social Good by Susan Nall Bales and Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. examines foundation opportunities and techniques to leverage social change goals through the use of communications media.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide

7 - The Capacity Building Challenge

Part I: A Research Perspective by Paul Light and Elizabeth Hubbard examines the capacity building efforts of eight funders and proposes a system for understanding and measuring the outcomes of such efforts.

Part II: A Funder's Response by Barbara Kibbe presents one grantmaker's perspective on applying the lessons from this research to the craft of making grants that build nonprofit capacity.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Excerpt: A Funder's Response

6 - Ideas in Philanthropic Field Building: Where They Come from and How They Are Translated into Actions by Larry Hirschhorn and Thomas N. Gilmore discusses how grantmakers can contribute to their fields by identifying promising ideas and translating them into successful program initiatives.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide

5 - Experienced Grantmakers at Work: When Creativity Comes Into Play by Ruth Tebbets Brousseau, based on interviews with recipients of the Council on Foundations' Scrivner Award, examines the skills and qualities that can nurture innovative grantmaking.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide

4 - Foundation Strategies for Attracting and Managing Talent by Nadya K. Shmavonian describes the human resource challenges and contradictions unique to foundations, including the need to select program staff with a rare blend of talents.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide

3 - Toward Greater Effectiveness in Community Change: Challenges and Responses for Philanthropy by Prudence Brown, Robert Chaskin, Ralph Hamilton, and Harold A. Richman offers a model suggesting how foundations can most effectively think about, do the work of, and learn from community change.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide

2 - Acts of Commission: Lessons from an Informal Study by Janice M. Nittoli identifies the necessary elements of a successful policy commission and offers a blueprint for bringing those elements together to achieve foundation goals.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide

1 - Toward More Effective Use of Intermediaries by Peter L. Szanton examines how and why foundations engage the services of intermediaries and explores the tradeoffs involved, including the effect on the grantmaker-grantee relationship.

Executive Summary | Text of Paper | Discussion Guide


Introducing the Series

Practice Matters seeks to raise the bar on grantmaker effectiveness for both newcomers and experienced foundation staff who wish to sharpen their skills. Written by leading experts and practitioners, this series features ten thought-provoking papers and corresponding discussion guides that tackle some of the most compelling "best practice" issues in the field of philanthropy. Read the Introduction (PDF format), view the complete list of titles and authors, and read the bios of series editors Patricia Patrizi, Kay Sherwood, and Abby Spector.


About the Project

The Practice Matters project represents a collective field-building effort involving more than 150 grantmakers, scholars, and other experts who set out to fill the gap in knowledge about the fundamental foundation practices that lead to good grantmaking. Practice Matters is published online by the Foundation Center in cooperation with Patrizi Associates at the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning.


Project Sponsors

Practice Matters: The Improving Philanthropy Project has been developed with support from the California Endowment and the Robert Wood Johnson, Ewing Marion Kauffman, John S. and James L. Knight, and David and Lucile Packard Foundations.


Feedback Form

We encourage your comments and suggestions about the titles in the Practice Matters series.
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