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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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.

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.

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.

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.

Sustaining Change: PropelNext Alumni Results One Year Later

April 1, 2017

In 2012, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) launched PropelNext to support promising nonprofits in strengthening their capacity to use data for learning, self-evaluation, and ongoing improvement. The first national cohort of grantees completed the program in 2015, and EMCF is conducting a study with alumni organizations to understand how PropelNext contributes to increased capacity and organizational performance over time. This learning brief highlights key insights and reflections from focus groups with CEOs and Executive Directors, and phone interviews with program and operational leaders from grantee organizations in late 2016.

Peer to Peer: At the Heart of Influencing More Effective Philanthropy

February 1, 2017

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has had a long-standing commitment to increasing the effectiveness of grantmaking organizations, a commitment reflected in its Philanthropy Grantmaking Program. In 2015, the Foundation commissioned Harder+Company Community Research, in partnership with Edge Research, to conduct a field scan to inform its own strategies in this area as well as those of other organizations working to increase philanthropic effectiveness. Drawing on data from multiple sources, the field scan identified which knowledge sources and formats are most likely to be accessed by funders, how that knowledge is assessed by its users, and the ways in which knowledge is used to shape the practice of philanthropy.

2015 GEO Member Survey Final Report

June 30, 2016

In 2015, we got the results of our triennial member survey. This is a crucial opportunity for us to hear directly from our members where we can be better. We are pleased that fully 99 percent of members rated their experience with GEO favorably. Three quarters reported that GEO increased their awareness of practices that support nonprofit success. Over half reported that GEO helped them improve their practice.

Status of Bay Area Nonprofit Space & Facilities

March 1, 2016

Working with Northern California Grantmakers, Harder+Company designed and conducted a survey that examined the recent and anticipated relocations among Bay Area nonprofits; whether certain nonprofits have been or will be more greatly affected by this issue; and the potential threat of this issue to Bay Area nonprofits' financial sustainability. The survey was sent to 1,683 nonprofit organizations in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties in December 2015. The findings of this survey are highlighted in this report.

Investing in Cultural Participation and Financial Sustainability: Cross-cohort Analysis of the Arts Regional Initiative, 2009-2014

January 11, 2016

Between 2009 and 2014, The James Irvine Foundation invested $13.4 million through the Arts Regional Initiative to build the capacity of a group of nonprofit arts organizations in California locales outside of major arts centers. The aim was two-fold: to increase cultural participation and improve financial sustainability. The following lessons emerged from Harder+Company Community Research analysis of the Initiative:It's possible to increase cultural participation.Combining key approaches maximizes participation.Organizations can achieve new capacities.Increased capacity cannot ensure financial sustainability.Partnerships and executive leadership matter.Commitment level correlates with benefit.The Initiative intentionally focused on nonprofit arts organizations working in regions of California characterized by changing demographics and lacking robust financial support for the nonprofit arts sector. This regional context, including effects of the recession, is provided in the Appendix.

Opening Doors to Citizenship (Summary)

August 12, 2014

The New Americans Campaign (the Campaign) was formed in 2011 by a group of funders and national partners, including the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), to increase the number of eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who apply to become United States citizens. The Campaign, led by the ILRC, draws together a national network of legal service providers, communityand faith-based organizations, foundations and other allies in the public and private sectors. In 2012, the Campaign commissioned Harder+Company Community Research to evaluate whether and how the original eight Campaign sites had increased naturalization rates. The evaluation found that the campaign efforts at these sites had produced increased numbers of completed applications, in large part because of beneficial collaboration, use of innovative approaches, and dynamic learning and support between national and local work.

Marguerite Casey Foundation: 2014 Grantee Feedback Report

August 1, 2014

Marguerite Casey Foundation asked Harder+Company Community Research to conduct a survey of itsgrantees in late 2013. The survey, conducted in early 2014, asked about the impact of the Foundation ongrantees' effectiveness, internal capacity and sustainability; the extent to which the grantees are using theFoundation's resources; and the grantees' perception of the alignment between their values and those of theFoundation. One hundred and forty-nine grantees participated, producing a response rate of 81%.Harder+Company supplemented the survey results by conducting qualitative interviews with a subsample ofgrantees to explore some of these topics in greater depth.

Improving the Practice of Philanthropy: An Evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation's Knowledge Creation and Dissemination Strategy

November 7, 2013

In May 2013, the Hewlett Foundation contracted Harder+Company Community Research, an evaluation and planning firm for the social sector, to assess the strategy and help inform its future investments in this area. The evaluation approach was exploratory and descriptive and based on the premise that learning is the primary goal. Harder+Company used a variety of research methods as part of the assessment, including a literature review, surveys and interviews with grantees, an assessment of the quality of grantee products using a rubric, a review of grantee external evaluations, and interviews with experts in the field.

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