Are Some Foundations Better Than Others?

Are some ideas better left in the board room?

Are measures of effectiveness better left in the for-profit board room?

A recent blog entry in Tactical Philanthropy got me thinking, are some foundations more effective and therefore “better” than others? Donors to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seem to have spoken a resounding, “yes.”

In its Annual Report published this week, the Gates Foundation reports receiving $10.4 million in unsolicited contributions, despite stringent guidelines and encouragement to donate directly to charitable organizations.

These donors, like Warren Buffett before them, are responding to a desire that each dollar be well spent, and they perceive that the Gates Foundation has the know-how and the resources to do so.

The act of giving is very personal, and that’s why I am hesitant to apply opaque labels like “better” to foundations and nonprofits a like.

However, I believe there is value in having a conversation about what “effectiveness” means for foundations and sharing practices that can help foundations serve their missions more effectively.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) is dedicated to doing just that. Over the last eight years, CEP has conducted research and created a variety of free assessment tools to enable foundations to take stock of their impact.

In fact, Phil Buchanan, president of CEP, will be presenting on this topic on June 17 at an MCF event for its members titled, “Findings from the Field: Essentials for Foundation Effectiveness.”

Join the conversation: I’d like to know how your foundation or nonprofit assesses effectiveness. Are there any tools or resources that you can recommend?

Or do you object, as many do, to the idea that philanthropic and charitable work can be reduced to quantifiable variables that can be objectively assessed? Is this a misapplication of thinking better left in the board room of Fortune 500 companies?

-Cary Lenore Walski, MCF Web Communications Associate

2 Responses to Are Some Foundations Better Than Others?

  1. Bertie Williams says:

    I don’t know if some foundations are better than others because so far not one have supported my organization.I have received some really nice refusals. Some curt and to the point and so forth. I suspect there are small organization such as I. From my experience however, I see that the only way I can survive is partnership not only with one but as many of those in the same boat as myself as I can reach. Otherwise there is very little help for us. On the other hand, I am glad that foundations are helping someone at least.

    • MCF Webmaster says:

      Yeah, competition for grants is incredibly fierce, especially right now. We have some resources on our site that could potentially help you hone your grant writing skills. http://www.mcf.org/mcf/grant/writing.htm

      Also, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has some amazing resources and programs, some of them free, that could help you connect with other potential partner orgs and learn how to develop your nonprofit in a variety of ways. http://mncn.org

      Hope these resources are helpful!

      -Cary
      MCF Web Communications Associate

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