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Alcoa Foundation

August 2011

Alcoa Foundation As one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., the Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Foundation focuses on the environment, empowerment, education, and sustainable design. Through this work, Alcoa seeks to promote environmental stewardship, prepare tomorrow's leaders, and enable economic and social sustainability. The Foundation Center asked the foundation's president, Paula Davis:

Question In evaluating your work to promote self-sufficiency and advance sustainable livelihoods across different local communities, how do you know that you're succeeding? What opportunities are there for other grantmakers to partner with you in helping to advance your work?

Answer "It's been said over and over again — and it's so true — that what is measured, counts. Since we have limited resources, we want to ensure that our investments produce the right outcomes for our communities. Each grantee is required to set specific program, engagement, and communications goals and then report on their progress at the mid-point and completion of the grant, all through the Alcoa Impact Measurement System. Measurement and scorecarding are not exact sciences. And we don't have all the answers, but we've seen that these reporting mechanisms are helpful in evaluating, measuring, and communicating our work. By working together with our partners to set goals during the program development phase and committing them to paper, we are applying discipline and transparency that inevitably gets us to the point where we can answer the million dollar questions: Is it working? Was it worth it? Are we making a difference?

"Alcoa Foundation partners with many impressive nonprofit organizations that work to advance sustainable livelihoods around our themes of environment and education. The challenge is finding more opportunities to coordinate our investments with other public and private sector organizations that share our goals. Companies, foundations, NGOs, and nonprofits that create connections and bring multiple entities together are more efficient and effective. A good example at the global level is our Make an Impact energy efficiency education program with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The program helps employees and communities reduce their carbon footprint through a web site and carbon calculator that help families determine what changes they can make to save energy, save money, and save the planet. So far, we've enlisted Bank of America and Entergy to offer the program to their employees. We're also partnering with community-based organizations in Brazil and Canada to expand the program and are reaching out to schools and local nonprofits in the U.S. to spread the word even further. At the local level, partnering is equally as important. In the Midwest, Alcoa is a co-founder of Achieve Quad Cities, a regional alliance led by the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend and United Way of the Quad Cities Area focused on increasing the high school graduation rate by 5% over 10 years. Each year, approximately 500 students drop out of high school in the Quad Cities — resulting in a future loss of $250 million to the community. This alliance is working to make sure students stay in school and graduate. When we are able to partner with others, we can leverage our resources collectively and ensure our programs are complementing and not duplicating efforts."

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