Gaining Perspective – and Having the Courage to Share It

Gaining Perspective

One of the things I enjoy the most about working within the nonprofit and philanthropic sector is that we have a culture of openness, a willingness to share successes so that others may replicate “bright spots” for their constituents.

But what about the not-so-bright spots? The pot holes on the road to progress are very instructive, yet many nonprofits  and foundations alike do not always feel comfortable charting them.

Fortunately, there are those organizations that have the gumption and the commitment to transparency to share bright spots as well as lessons learned. One such organization is the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF).

NWAF, an MCF member, shares insights on a recent 10-year undertaking to reduce poverty in a new FSG report titled Gaining Perspective: Lessons Learned From One Foundation’s Exploratory Decade.

In 1998, NWAF set out to solve one of the most pernicious and wicked problems facing communities —  poverty. The foundation laid out a bold new approach to addressing poverty over its large, eight-state region. It was an ambitious undertaking, and results varied.

However, instead of hiding pitfalls the foundation experienced on the road to results, NWAF has generously shared those insights with us, so that the field, and ultimately communities and families across the nation, may benefit. The FSG report and executive summary can be downloaded at

If you’re attending the national COF conference, NWAF President Kevin Walker will be referring to the lessons learned outlined in this report during his session. See the conference website for details.

Join the Conversation: How do you think we can create a culture of openness and continual improvement among foundations and nonprofit service providers? Do you have any other examples to share of nonprofits or funders using different strategies to increase transparency? Please leave your comments below.

– Cary Lenore Walski, MCF web communications associate

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