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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CIVICAIM CASE STUDY - Designed to Learn, Evaluating Impact

December 5, 2019

Two years into a new grantmaking strategy, the Sooch Foundation wanted to know what was working, and what wasn't

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.

Many Voices, One Goal: How an informal foundation collaborative helping make California history

December 10, 2014

In 2013, the state of California passed sweeping changes in the way it funds public schools. New legislation shifted $50 billion from a convoluted, very ineffective and inequitable system to a new system, called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), by which funds flow more equitably to school districts.This unprecedented change in education finance didn't happen overnight. It came only after copious research from leading academic institutions, mobilization by dozens of advocacy organizations, leadership from key elected officials, and the support of private philanthropy. This is a case study of the role of philanthropy in providing resources and support for the development of statewide policy for the benefit of students.

Building Capacity to Sustain Social Movements: Ten Lessons from the Communities for Public Education Reform Fund (CPER)

December 4, 2014

Most funders agree that effective grantmaking requires pursuing a range of complementary approaches.Direct grants are the lifeblood of organizations and the cornerstone of funder practice, but grantmakers also provide critical value when they help grantees develop organizational leadership and governance, strengthen strategic collaborations with peers, network with new allies, and expand field knowledge, among other things.This report explores how grantmakers can leverage their investments by coupling direct grants with strategically delivered capacity building supports. It focuses on building capacity for community organizing and advocacy groups, though many of its lessons are more broadly applicable.

Education Policy Impacts: 2007-2014

October 17, 2014

Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER) is a national funders' collaborative committed to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students -- in particular students of color from low-income families -- by supporting community-driven reforms led by grassroots education organizing groups. A project of NEO Philanthropy, CPER has engaged 76 local and national fund members, investing $34 million in 140 community groups, advocacy allies, and national coalitions over the Fund's eight year lifespan. Powered by multi-year campaigns that involved organizing, advocacy, research, communications, and alliance building, CPER grantees played a key role in securing more than 9 policy wins at the school, district, state and federal level between 2007 and 2014. This summary of selected wins begins with those achieved at the federal level and follows with district- and state-level reforms grouped by CPER's six investment sites across the country. Organizations must remain united to defend these wins, monitor their implementation, and ensure that policies will stick.

Greater Power, Lasting Impact: Effective Grantmaker Strategies from the Communities for Public Education Reform Fund (CPER)

October 6, 2014

CPER (also referred to here on as the "Fund") is a national funders' collaborative committed to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students -- in particular students of color from low-income families -- by supporting community-driven reforms led by grassroots education organizing groups. CPER originated in discussions among funders active in Grantmakers for Education's Working Group on Education Organizing.They launched the collaborative in 2007, in partnership with NEO Philanthropy (then Public Interest Projects), the 501 (c)(3) public charity engaged to direct the Fund. CPER's founding funders saw that, in the education debates of the day, the perspectives of those closest to the ground were often left out. These funders recognized that students and families have a crucial role to play in identifying, embracing, and sustaining meaningful school reform. Students and families know their own needs and see first-hand the inequities in schools. Organizing groups help them get a seat at the decision-making table and develop workable solutions, building on community assets that are vital to addressing the cultural and political dimensions of reform. These grassroots groups are essential to creating the public accountability and will needed to catalyze educational reforms and ensure they stick. They can be the antidote to the ever-shifting political conditions and leadership turnover that plague reform efforts. At the same time, they help community members develop leadership and a grassroots base, building individual civic capacity and community power that strengthens our democratic infrastructure for the long term. Because educational improvement requires tackling persistent inequities in race and income, supporting leaders in low-income communities of color also helps build the social capital needed to solve integrally related social challenges. CPER was initially conceived to run for a minimum of three years -- a timeline consistent with most foundation grants but short for the transformative kinds of changes the Fund hoped to achieve. CPER's lifespan eventually stretched to eight years because of the recognized power of its supported work. Over this period, NEO Philanthropy engaged a highly diverse set of 76 local and national funders in the CPER collaborative. Incentivizing new resources through matching dollars, CPER raised close to $34 million and invested nationally in some 140 community groups and advocacy allies in national coalitions and in six target sites of varying scale (California, Chicago, Colorado, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Philadelphia). These groups, in turn, developed local leadership, national coalitions, and cross-issue alliances that helped to achieve over 90 school-, district, and state-level policy reforms that strengthen educational equity and opportunity. CPER's history of impact illustrates the efficacy of community organizing as an essential education reform strategy, along with the more commonly supported strategies of policy advocacy, research, and model demonstration efforts. But CPER's story is also more broadly instructive. In this period of "strategic philanthropy " when focused, foundation-led agendas are increasingly seen as the surest route to achieving desired ends, CPER offered a very different, bottom-up, multi-issue alternative that proved effective. In sharing CPER's story, we hope to deepen understanding of the value of community organizing for education reform while contributing to the larger conversation about how grantmakers can effectively support social movements to strengthen opportunity and justice.

Strengthening Collaborations to Build Social Movements: Ten Lessons from the Communities for Public Education Reform Fund (CPER)

October 6, 2014

This report explores how grantmakers can help strengthen collaborations among supported groups to advance ambitious social change goals. As noted by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations in Many Hands, More Impact, grantmakers can play a number of critically important roles in supporting social movement building: investing in a broad range of organizations, change strategies, and issues; brokering relationships among groups and their allies; connecting grantees to one another in impactful ways; fostering learning to grow a field; and influencing peers and policy through these supports. We focus on grantmakers' "connector" role because we see it as a crucial -- and often underexamined -- strategyfor expanding impact. But how, specifically, can grantmakers nurture connections -- and productive collaborations that may eventually arise from them -- while remaining attuned to the strategic intentions of supported groups and the relationships they themselves want to cultivate? And how can the enhanced capacity that genuine collaboration requires be reflected and resourced in ways that meet funders' expectations of collaborative impact? Our perspective on these questions is grounded in the experience of Communities for Public Education Reform (also referred to here on as "CPER" or the "Fund"). CPER is a national funders' collaborative committed to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students -- in particular students of color from low-income families -- by supporting community-driven reforms led by grassroots education organizing groups. Maximizing collaborative potential has always been central to CPER's DNA, and is encoded in the Fund's vision, strategy, and operational structure. In sharing lessons learned by CPER funders, staff, and grantees over the Fund's eight-year lifespan, we hope to contribute to the conversation about how grantmakers can nurture collaborations that advance building social movements for opportunity and justice.

Advancing Evaluation Practices in Philanthropy

May 1, 2012

In recent years, the philanthropic sector has neared consensus on the need to improve measurement and evaluation of its work. Although the philanthropies they lead use different methods, members of the Aspen Philanthropy Group (APG) have agreed that basic principles and practices can inform efforts to monitor performance, track progress, and assess the impact of foundation strategies, initiatives, and grants. They hope to build a culture of learning in the process.

Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work

January 20, 2012

Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations. Substantially greater progress could be made in alleviating many of our most serious and complex social problems if nonprofits, governments, businesses, and the public were brought together around a common agenda to create collective impact. Published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011.

The Promise of Citywide Charter Strategies

May 1, 2011

Charter school enrollment is on the rise in many urban areas. In fact, 56% of all public charter schools are located in urban areas, and 10 of our nation's largest school districts now have 20,000 students enrolled in public charter schools. With this growth in the charter movement, there is an increasing need for local infrastructure support through technical services, advocacy, and coordination. This report examines the potential for citywide charter strategies as a key leverage point for increasing charter school quality.

Dollars for Degrees: Financial Aid and its Impact on Post-Secondary Degree Completion in Texas

November 1, 2010

Researchers have begun to investigate more deeply the specific effects of rising college costs, increasing debt, and the impact of financial aid on degree completion. Specifically, this paper describes the various sources and types of financial aid available to postsecondary students in Texas, how financial aid is packaged at different types of institutions, and the effects of financial aid types and packages on post-secondary persistence and completion. An appendix contains additional detail on federal, state, institutional and private aid sources as well as a list of the advisors, interviewees, and focus group members we spoke with during our research. While this paper focuses on financial aid in Texas given GTF's state-based purview, we believe many of the lessons are applicable across the country.

Dollars for Degrees: Structuring Post-Secondary Scholarships to Increase Student Success

November 1, 2010

This report explores how funders can structure their scholarship awards and provide access to key non-financial supports to improve post-secondary persistence and completion.

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