NNCG Knowledge Center

Inform Your Practice. Increase Your Impact.

Welcome to NNCG's Knowledge Center -- a searchable, online database of resources for and about grantmaking, produced by highly qualified and experienced philanthropy consultants. NNCG's Knowledge Center contains a wealth of reports, case studies, infographics, issue briefs, videos and more that offer ideas, research and helpful information about almost every aspect of philanthropy. Each item was authored or published by an NNCG member. NNCG constructed the Knowledge Center in partnership with Candid -- one of the most respected and trusted sources of information in the philanthropic field.
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Pathways to Grow Impact: Philanthropy's Role in the Journey

February 14, 2013

Since 2010, through the "Scaling What Works" initiative, GEO has fostered a conversation about scale that considers a variety of ways nonprofits are creating more value for communities and how funders are supporting their work. GEO's newest publication, "Pathways to Grow Impact", shares new learning about the role grantmakers should play. The publication is the result of a collaborative project with Ashoka, Social Impact Exchange, Taproot Foundation and TCC Group that sought to answer the question: How can grantmakers best support high-performing nonprofits in their efforts to grow their impact? "Pathways to Grow Impact" is for any grantmaker who wants his or her grant dollars to have a greater effect. The publication offers a framework for understanding different approaches to scaling impact, stories from nonprofit leaders who have successfully grown their organizations' impact, and practical recommendations for grantmakers seeking more effective ways to achieve better results.

Advancing Social Change Through Movement Building, One Relationship at a Time

July 1, 2019

One of our goals is to educate the field of philanthropy in how general operating support is the most strategic and effective form of funding to provide to organizations. We believe the case study model is an effective way to tell the story of transformational change that can occur when Foundations commit to building strong partnerships with organizations and providing long-term general operating support. We selected three organizations that started receiving grants in 2002 and have continued to receive grants and asked Harder+CO, an agency that specializes in using an investigative journalism approach, to explore how the Foundation's support influenced the organizations, the communities they serve and the movement's groups are building.Brief Learnings from this 2019 Case Study include:Multi-year unrestricted funding allows an organization the flexibility to stay true to its mission without compromising values and long-term goals.Network building support has strengthened grantees efforts to work across issues and advance long-term policy efforts.Unrestricted support allows grantees to staff their organizing efforts for long-term, culturally responsive advocacy.Long-term relationships with the Foundation provide endorsement value and instill confidence in the organization.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit for Consultants to Grantmakers

June 13, 2019

This DEI Toolkit will support your practice and increase your proficiency and knowledge. Whether you're new to DEI work or well on your journey, the resources here provide a valuable asset for strengthening the field of philanthropy and its dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Evaluators as Conduits and Supports for Foundation Learning

March 1, 2019

Evaluators play a critical role in supporting philanthropic learning, programming, and strategy, but evaluation and learning in philanthropy is often limited in ways that impede deeper resonance and impact. Most philanthropic evaluation is focused on the needs of individual foundations, knowledge sharing with the broader field is limited, and foundations struggle to integrate evaluation and learning as a management tool. This article makes the case that evaluators and funders can do more to build the collective capacity of evaluators working in philanthropy in order to enhance their contributions to community change. This article also examines the ways that evaluation in philanthropy is evolving, lays out root causes of its limitations, and looks at emerging tools, techniques, and lessons that showcase new ways evaluators and funders are working together to strengthen practice.

Becoming a Learning Organization: PropelNext California 2018 Cohort

January 1, 2019

PropelNext is an intensive cohort-based, capacity-building program designed by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) to enhance the performance of promising nonprofits that serve America's disadvantaged youth. In partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Sobrato Family Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation, EMCF launched the second cohort in 2015 comprised of 14 nonprofits in Southern and Northern California. PropelNext stands out from other capacity-building initiatives with the depth and breadth of support it provides to help nonprofits develop performance management practices and cultivate data-driven decision making. The supports provided by the PropelNext team include customized coaching, peer learning sessions, small group coaching workshops, and an online learning community (OLC). Through the three-year initiative, grantees sharpen their program models, develop theories of change (TOCs), implement performance management systems, and cultivate cultures of learning and continuous improvement. With a commitment to learning, EMCF partnered with Engage R+D and Harder+Company Community Research to assess the context, development, and implementation of PropelNext, as well as generate timely insights to refine the model. The developmental evaluation also captures baseline information that can be used to assess the impact of this work over time. The evaluation synthesizes data from a multitude of sources and perspectives using mixed methods that include surveys, interviews, focus groups, site visits, meeting observations, and document review. Findings clearly demonstrate that PropelNext has provided a solid foundation for learning and growth and is catalyzing organizations to a new level of performance and sophistication. While grantees acknowledge the road ahead will likely be full of bumps and detours, they have acquired new knowledge, skills and capabilities to weather the ride. This executive summary, and the full report, highlight key results and insights about the challenges, facilitators, and nuances of building a learning organization.

Dynamics of Hosting Giving Circles and Collective Giving Groups

November 30, 2018

The final report of this initial series, Dynamics of Hosting Giving Circles and Collective Giving Groups, explores the hosting experiences of community foundations and other organizations. Key findings include:Contributing to a culture of philanthropy in their communities is the top reason that hosts are motivated to start or support a giving circle, followed by reaching new donors and a more diverse set of donors.The most fundamental service provided by giving circle hosts is serving as a fiscal sponsor; other top services offered include providing communications support, organizing educational opportunities for members and soliciting proposals from potential grantees.Hosts cited staff time required, differences in expectations between the giving circle and host organization, and covering costs as the biggest challenges associated with hosting giving circles.

PropelNext Alumni Study: The Road to High Performance

June 1, 2018

The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) makes large, long-term investments to help high-performing nonprofits scale evidence-based programs that improve the lives of disadvantaged children and youth. In 2012, EMCF launched PropelNext to strengthen the next tier of organizations whose programs had not yet been fully codified. Informed by research and hands-on experience in organizational effectiveness and performance management, EMCF developed PropelNext as an intensive, cohort-based, capacity-building program designed to enhance the effectiveness of promising nonprofits serving America's disadvantaged youth. Through PropelNext, cohorts of grantees participate in a structured three-year program supported by a team of experienced consultants that helps grantees build the knowledge, infrastructure, and practices to become data-driven learning organizations. EMCF believes that supporting youth-serving organizations to use data will strengthen their programs and ultimately improve outcomes for youth.The first national cohort of 12 organizations completed the PropelNext program in 2015. To better understand the impact of PropelNext and how it contributes to improved organizational performance, EMCF partnered with Harder+Company Community Research and Engage R+D to assess post-program progress, achievements, and challenges. The 18-month study triangulates data from diverse sources including in-depth site visits, document review including data reports, surveys, interviews, and focus groups with organizational leaders, middlemanagers, front-line staff, board members, partners, and funders. This report summarizes key insights and findings and is designed to capture the journey of grantees as they continue to cultivate a learning culture and to embed performance management practices into their organizational DNA. Given the evolving nature of the capacity-building field, the study also elevates promising practices and effective ways to help nonprofits use data for continuous learning and improved performance.

Strengthening Policy Advocacy: A Decade of Lessons Learned from the First 5 Los Angeles Policy Advocacy Fund: 2008-20118

January 1, 2018

This report is an evaluation of First 5 LA's 10-year grantmaking investment into policy advocacy.The document provides insights gleaned from the period beginning with the first year of theCommunity Opportunity Fund (COF) (2008) through the final year of the Policy AdvocacyFund (PAF), Cycle II (2018). During this period, the COF and PAF were the primary grantmakingmechanisms through which First 5 LA impacted systems and policy change, ultimately increasingopportunities for children prenatal to age 5 and their families. This report identifies the practices,strategic shifts and overall impact of these grantmaking initiatives. We hope that the lessonslearned will inform future grantmaking decisions for First 5 LA and other grantmakers looking tocontribute to making lasting, systemic change.

The Landscape of Giving Circles/Collective Giving Groups in the U.S.

November 9, 2017

Giving circles and other forms of collective giving (hereafter referred to as GCs) have grown significantly in visibility and popularity over the past 15 years. Often started by donors, they are widely understood to be highly flexible, democratic, do-it-yourself vehicles for giving. Previous research has illuminated the positive impact that participation has on the giving and civic engagement of donors. Until recently, however, our understanding of the scope and scale of GCs was 10 years out of date! This research presents an updated understanding of the current landscape of GCs and similar models of collective giving or giving collaboratives in the United States. This research comprises the first of a three-part inquiry, which also looks at research underway related to the impact of participation in GCs on donor giving and civic engagement, and a study of the relationships between GCs and their hosting organizations.

The Step-by-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers

November 1, 2017

A new Step-by-Step Guide to Evaluation released in November 2017 for grantees, nonprofits and community leaders is a successor for the original Evaluation Handbook that was published in 1998 and revised in 2014. The new guide is available here by clicking Download PDF. The original handbook provides a framework for thinking about evaluation as a relevant and useful program tool. It was written primarily for project directors who have direct responsibility for the ongoing evaluation of W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded projects.Increasingly, we have targeted our grantmaking by funding groups of projects that address issues of particular importance to the Foundation.The primary purpose for grouping similar projects together in "clusters" is to bring about more policy or systemic change than would be possible in a single project or in a series of unrelated projects. Cluster evaluation is a means of determining how well the collection of projects fulfills the objective of systemic change. Projects identified as part of a cluster are periodically brought together at networking conferences to discuss issues of interest to project directors, cluster evaluators,and the Foundation.

Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs: Pathways, Partnerships and Fidelity

September 13, 2017

In successfully scaling up social programs through partnerships, 45 diverse nonprofits faced three key choices: their partner, their approach to spreading their work, and their call on the balance between fidelity and flexibility at the expansion sites.

Cultivating Systems Leadership in Cross-Sector Partnerships: Lessons from the Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence

August 1, 2017

Investments in the social sector have become increasingly complex, with many foundations shifting from supports for single organizations toward more systemic strategies focused on improving outcomes for entire communities. As a result, the field has become awash in regional, or place-based, investments that rely on cross-sector partnerships and networks to drive change. These efforts require coordination among stakeholders across all levels of the practice and policy continuum – from direct service providers, to nonprofit intermediaries, funders, advocacy organizations, and policymakers.It is in this context, and in the spirit of continuous learning, that The James Irvine Foundation's Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence investment serves as a systems change experiment, offering insights and critical lessons that can inform others undertaking similar work. The aim of this Issue Brief – authored by Equal Measure and Harder+Company – is to contribute to field dialogue and learning about the role of leadership in complex systems change strategies, particularly those focused on producing equitable impacts in college and career readiness.Equal Measure and Harder+Company serve as the evaluators of The James Irvine Foundation's Linked Learning Regional Hubs of Excellence. They work in partnership with Jobs for the Future, the intermediary and technical assistance provider for this initiative.

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