Foundations for Social Change: Critical Perspectives on Philanthropy and Popular Movements edited by Daniel R. Faber, Deborah McCarthy (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) This multi-disciplinary collection blends broad overviews and case studies as well as different theoretical perspectives in a critique of the relationship between United States philanthropic foundations and movements for social change. Scholars and practitioners examine how these foundations support and/or thwart popular social movements and address how philanthropic institutions can be more accountable and democratic in a sophisticated, provocative, and accessible manner.
Excerpt: Since the early twentieth century, foundations have played a central role in supporting numerous charities and social institutions, including hospitals and medical research, human services, the arts and cultural events, and places of higher learning. But foundations have also increasingly assumed a lead role in advancing various social causes, policy initiatives, social programs, and political movements dear to the hearts (and sometimes the wallets) of their founders and boards of directors. In so doing, foundations have served as a major catalyst for reforming society in line with the larger vision of the political-economic elite comprising the "funding class." This power can be seen in: the Rockefeller Foundation's fostering and shaping of scientific research and policy expertise; the Twentieth Century Fund's direct role in the creation of credit unions and evolution of consumer capitalism; the Ford Foundation's enormous influence on public policy since the 1950s, including a focus on poverty and political marginalization among people of color, the elderly (Gray Areas Program), and women; and the instrumental role of the Russell Sage Foundation in pushing for national standards relating to housing, sanitation, public health, workers' compensation and pension plans, city planning, and the professionalization of social work. What makes circumstances unique today in comparison to the past is that the sheer economic wealth controlled by these institutions has increased exponentially in recent years—both in terms of the number and the size of today's foundations.
Over the last two decades, foundation assets have increased 1,000 percent.3 In 2002, foundations possessed assets ranging from $419 to $429 billion, and provided an estimated $30.3 billion to nonprofit organizations. Moreover, foundation support for the nonprofit sector has more than tripled since 1991 enabled by the record-setting expansion of the U.S. economy and stock market during the 1990s. In fact, America's grantmaking foundations gave out $205.9 billion over a ten-year period between 1992 and 2002. The growing inter-generational transfers and concentration of wealth accompanying the economic boom of the 1990s also resulted in the formation of new foundations at unprecedented rates: doubling from more than 30,300 in 1988 to more than 61,800 active grantmakers by 2002. Among the nearly 21,000 foundations that held assets of at least $1 million (or gave more than $100,000) in 2001, over two-fifths were formed in the 1990s, far exceeding any prior decade. In the new millennium, the formation of grantmaking foundations has further accelerated, close to triple the growth rate seen in the mid-1990s.
America's largest foundations are truly economic giants. In 2001, the Ford Foundation held assets of $10.8 billion and distributed over $829 million. Likewise, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation held assets of $5.53 billion and $4.14 billion, respectively, and gave out nearly $201 million and $182 million in 2001. While the assets of these and other traditional trusts such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Pew have continued to expand, their status as "top dogs" in the foundation world is being challenged by a host of fresh grantmakers created by the fortunes of "new economy" entrepreneurs. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (of Microsoft Corporation fame), now the nation's wealthiest foundation, held assets of $32.75 billion and disbursed almost $1.147 billion in grants in 2001. Similarly, the Lilly Endowment and David and Lucille Packard Foundation, with assets of over $12.8 billion and $6.2 billion, respectively, gave out $598 million and over $429 million in 2001. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which concentrates its grantmaking on human health issues, had over $9.04 billion in assets in 2001, and gave out $360.3 million in 2002.6
The control over vast sums of wealth has always conferred enormous political clout upon America's foundations. Even before Congress created the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (or the Filer Commission, named after its chair, John H. Filer) to investigate foundation abuses more than twenty-five years ago, the ever-growing concentration of economic power in these essentially undemocratic institutions has been a pointof public concern. Although the Filer Commission stated that the fundamental purpose of philanthropy is to meet the most critical needs of society as a whole, critics argue that the bulk of foundation money actually goes to institutions and causes that promote the specific class interests of the givers and their family members.? A recent study that analyzed the grantmaking patterns of the country's biggest foundations found that the largest beneficiaries were the wealthiest nonprofits in the nation, and they included already well-endowed colleges and prestigious universities, as well as large museums, symphony orchestras, and other elite institutions.8 In fact, more than one of every four dollars donated in 2001 by these foundations went to educational institutions, particularly those serving the most privileged families in society. For instance, Stanford University received more than $873.1 million in foundation grants, while Harvard University received over $754.8 million (Harvard's endowment in 2004 was $19.3 billion).
The process by which America's largest and most powerful foundations channel the bulk of their resources toward elite class-based institutions leaves little money for those organizations serving the neediest members of society. In fact, nonprofits providing human services receive only about one in ten of all foundation dollars. Given the deep slashes in most government services and programs (at all levels), coupled with the increased need for such services resulting from the social dislocations now present in the United States, the demands being placed upon the philanthropic world by the nonprofit sector are increasing exponentially. However, given the lack of foundation resources serving the disadvantaged, it is clear that private philanthropy will not fill the void created by state budget cuts. Instead, most nonprofit organizations—whether they are involved in providing charitable services or community organizing for social change—are engaged in a fierce competitive chase for a dwindling reservoir of dollars. Today, if the Ford Foundation or any of these other grantmaking giants "sneezes," as they have in the post 9/11 environment, entire sectors of the nonprofit world catch a cold." The political vacuum created by the declining role of the neoliberal state in "nurturing" civil society, coupled with the increased dependency of revenue-starved government agencies [at all levels], and the growing numbers of nonprofit organizations and larger social movements that depend upon foundation grants for their survival have given foundations an influence that is unmatched in this country's history. As we shall see, this effect is further magnified by the unparalleled sums of grant dollars being mobilized to support various foundation-centered policy initiatives, especially among the New Right. As stated by researcher Mark Dowie, "philanthropic foundations exercise great power in American life, power far beyond their wealth, and influence that extends beyond their founders' imaginations."'
This book contains a collection of essays devoted to examining the manner in which foundations exert power. Moreover, the authors are especially committed to exploring the role of foundations in promoting various forms of social change. The writers are also interested in exploring a daunting paradox pervasive throughout philanthropy. That is, despite the enormous economic power of the mainline foundations, their grantmaking strategies are proving unable to solve America's most pressing social and environmental problems. This failure signals a "crisis of philanthropy," a fact which can no longer be denied. The question is, "Why?"
Philanthropy is critical to the task of building more broadly based, democratic, and effective social movements in the United States. Popular movements are necessary vehicles for challenging and transforming the structures of power and profit that lie at the root of our country's social, economic, and ecological crises. Foundations can play an especially important role in championing the sorts of fundamental social and institutional changes needed to bring about such a transformation of American politics. However, if mainline foundations continue to conceive of these crises as a collection of unrelated problems, and if the reigning paradigm is defined in neoliberal terms, then it is highly unlikely that significant improvement will be made. In the current environment, piecemeal approaches to policy can lead to the creation of a combination of regulations, incentives, and technical innovations that keep personal incomes, access to housing and health care, pollution and the destruction of resources, and retirement security, etc., at "tolerable" levels for restricted segments of the American people (typically those of higher socioeconomic status). However, the majority of working-class families and poor people of color will undoubtedly continue to suffer the worst abuses. If, however, the interdependency of issues is emphasized, so that environmental devastation, racism, poverty, crime, the war economy, civil and human rights violations, and social despair are all seen as aspects of a multidimensional web rooted in a larger structural crisis of American capitalism, then a transformative philanthropy can be invented. This is the ultimate aim of popular social movements, and foundations need to assist in achieving this goal.
Any hope for a democratic renewal lies in the strong voices of thousands of SMOs that serve as an expression of the collective desire for social, economic, and environmental justice. These voices can be raised to the proper level of amplification only if funders are dedicated to not only providing additional resources, but also to providing this funding in the most appropriate manner. In this book, the editors ask leading scholars of philanthropy to take a critical look at the state of philanthropy in America. Our hope is that foundation officials, movement activists, governmental policy makers, academic researchers and scholars, students, and citizens alike will make use of the insights afforded by the contributors in this collection to push philanthropy toward the realization of this yet unfulfilled promise.
Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, 3 Volumes by Dwight Burlingame (ABC-CLIO) Woven into the fabric of U.S. history, philanthropy has been an integral part of American life. Philanthropy in America—the first comprehensive treatment of the topic—examines America's remarkable history of charitable action from the early 1600s to the present day. The work was developed under the guidance of Dr. Dwight Burlingame, the nation's foremost expert on philanthropy, and represents a milestone in the study of philanthropy and nonprofit organizations in America.
This all-encompassing resource:
Is the first and only encyclopedia on the topic as a whole
Includes over 200 A–Z entries on individuals, organizations, events, theories, and legislation, with reference to works for further study
Features contributions from nearly 200 leading scholars from a wide variety of disciplines
Offers over 75 essential primary source documents, such as the Poor Laws of 1601 and the Filer Commission Report of 1975
Presents a philanthropic timeline, from the 1601 enactment of the Statute of Charitable Uses to the 1999 establishment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Provides a deeper understanding and perspective of the role of philanthropy in the United States
This groundbreaking, illustrated work fills the long-felt need for a comprehensive encyclopedia on philanthropy in America. In accessible fashion, it introduces the reader to information and ideas central to the study of philanthropy, making it a paramount resource for students, scholars, and anyone seeking a broad understanding of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector in the United States.
Dwight F. Burlingame is professor of philanthropic studies and director of academic programs at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN. He is the author and editor of several works in the field of corporate citizenship, philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and libraries.
Excerpt: Philanthropic and nonprofit studies have enjoyed a major growth spurt over the past twenty-five years in the United States, with recent increased attention around the globe. However, some still see the field as a marginal academic enterprise. With substantial contributions by many scholars in various disciplines and professional fields, philanthropic and nonprofit studies programs have given students and teachers alike a fresh perspective on critical issues in our society. Philanthropic studies instructors relate their material to broader cultural, historical, political, and economic themes. This integrative perspective is a defining element that encourages analytic skill and develops an intellectual, global view that emphasizes the complexity and thematic relationships of a civil society. The authors of the articles in this encyclopedia have made this objective central to their work in contributing to a liberal education.
In the mid-1990s, I had several conversations with my colleagues at Indiana University about the need foran encyclopedia of philanthropy. Those conversations usually ended with the conclusion that it would be an impossible task to get one's arms and mind around such a broad field. It wasn't until my friend and colleague in philanthropic studies at Indiana, David Smith, provided the sage advice that I should undertake this task as an opportunity to make a "significant" contribution to the field, that I decided to pursue the project. With support and encouragement from colleagues at the Center on Philanthropy and a former editor from ABC-CLIO, a contract was signed and work commenced.
Deciding what to include in this three-volume set was not an easy task, as philanthropic studies is a very broad field. To select the entries, I worked with an advisory committee composed of scholars, nonprofit practitioners, and educators. Final determination for what was included, however, was my responsibility. Volumes 1 and 2 include articles on notable people, events, and associations as well as on numerous other important topics in philanthropy. Volume 3 brings together original documents in the field.
More than 175 authors participated in the project. For the most part, the essays were written by well-known specialists in their chosen topical area. In a few cases, bright graduate students from the philanthropic studies or nonprofit management programs at Indiana University, Indianapolis, wrote entries.
Needless to say, thousands of significant individuals have contributed and are currently contributing to the history of giving, volunteering, and social action in the United States. Therefore, my inclusion of a historical figure is very selective and has been made on the basis of a representative type of those who have shaped the history of philanthropy, that is, the history of voluntary action (giving of time, treasure, and talent) intended for the public good. I was greatly assisted in this selection matter by a previous project, Notable American Philanthropists: Biographies of Giving and Volunteering (2002), which was directed by Robert T. Grimm Jr. and made possible by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Users may find more extensive philanthropic biographies of many of the people covered in this encyclopedia by consulting that work.
Organizations selected for inclusion are those most directly related to the philanthropic infrastructure of the field and its development over time. Needless to say, there is no attempt to include all philanthropic organizations or nonprofits. For profiles of current charitable nonprofits, readers are referred to GuideStar, available online at http://www.guidestar.org.
Contributors have attempted to introduce the reader to particular ideas and areas of study in philanthropy and have often included significant bibliographic references to allow the reader to further explore the topic under consideration.
In Volume 3, I endeavored to select the fundamental documents and excerpts that provided the foundation for the development of philanthropy and a non-profit sector in America. Again, it is important to note that this needed to be a selective representation, and the final decision of what to include was dictated by availability of material and subjective judgment. In addition to historical documents, I sought some representative works from literature that provided visions of what the state of philanthropy was or should have been within historical time frames. Even though the documents speak for themselves, I have included brief notes to provide a contextual guide for the reader.
Many historians have characterized the eleemosynary history of the United States as one of American exceptionalism and the individual quest for wealth. As my colleague Lawrence Friedman and his coauthors argued in their recent history of American philanthropy (Philanthropy, Charity and Civility in American History, 2003), the development of philanthropy in the United States is better understood as a missionary quest by givers (of time and/or money) to impose their view of what is good on society writ large. Taking this perspective, American history reads like an ongoing tension play between morals and money, or between obligations to others and those to self. One can make a reasonable case that the history of philanthropy in the United States seems to be informed by Adam Smith's ethical doctrines, a combination of Christian and Stoic virtues. For the student who wishes to pursue this idea, re-viewing Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) is a good starting point.
Foundations and Evaluation: Contexts and Practices for Effective Philanthropy
by Marc T. Braverman (Jossey-Bass) "Gathered together in this unique book on
evaluation and effective foundation practice are the experienced-based
perspectives and measured insights of both seasoned practitioners and key
philanthropic thought leaders. Foundations and Evaluation is a substantial think
piece for grantmakers of any size."--Dorothy S. Ridings, president and CEO,
Council on Foundations "Foundations and Evaluation explores the intersection
between organizational effectiveness and evaluation and demonstrates the need
for commitment to evaluation throughout the foundation...A good read for both
newcomers to evaluation and those with more experience, written by some of the
most highly respected leaders in the field."--Kathleen P. Enright, executive
director, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
“Gathered together in this unique book on evaluation and effective foundation practice are the experienced-based perspectives and measured insights of both seasoned practitioners and key philanthropic thought leaders. Foundations and Evaluation is a substantial think piece for grantmakers of any size.”--Dorothy S. Ridings, president and CEO, Council on Foundations
“Foundations and Evaluation explores the intersection between organizational effectiveness and evaluation and demonstrates the need for commitment to evaluation throughout the foundation. . . . A good read for both newcomers to evaluation and those with more experience, written by some of the most highly respected leaders in the field.”--Kathleen P. Enright, executive director, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
Excerpt: We open with perspectives from three foundation presidents; each presents his or her foundation's vision for evaluation. Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, discusses evaluation in relation to foundations' obligations to understand their own philanthropic aims, planning processes, and impacts on society. Michael M. Howe, president of The East Bay Community Foundation, describes how evaluation is incorporated into his foundation's processes of organizational learning. Finally, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, describes how evaluation plays a pivotal role in RWJF's program development and funding processes. Although evaluation use is far from ubiquitous among philanthropic foundations, these and other foundations have developed positive visions to guide their development and use of evaluation in support of effective grantmaking.
The remainder of the book is organized into two major sections. Part One, titled Understanding Foundations as a Context for Evaluation, contains readings that analyze foundations' unique organizational attributes and the background perspectives that help one understand the application of evaluation to what foundations do. Part Two, titled Building Capacity for Evaluation Practice, describes factors that can increase the capabilities of both foundation personnel and evaluators to plan, conduct, and disseminate useful evaluations in support of effective foundation practice.
Chapter One, by Laura C. Leviton and Marian E. Bass, includes illustrations and vignettes about implementing and using foundation-sponsored evaluation, based on their own experiences and those of colleagues. The vignettes provide en-gaging illustrations of what happens to evaluation practice when important internal factors (foundation size, culture, and the organizational location of responsibility for evaluation) and external factors (foundations' power in society, their vulnerability to criticism, and grantee perceptions of the evaluation process) are (or are not) taken into account. Leviton and Bass use these points to discuss the potential role of evaluation and the contributions it can make.
In Chapter Two, Peter Dobkin Hall examines the historical development of foundation perspectives regarding the use of evaluation. As he describes, the 1970s were a formative period in which a number of influential foundation voices laid down strongly expressed support for evaluation as an enterprise that foundations should use to learn more about the value and effects of their activities. The ensuing developments in more recent years have not unfolded according to the script one might have envisioned from these early calls. Hall describes how foundations' use of evaluation has been problematic in a number of respects.
The practice of evaluation itself also broadened in that period of time. Yet the interest in evaluation within the nonprofit and philanthropic communities has grown steadily. He explores the interplay of these phenomena and analyzes how changing views and perspectives have brought us to the present point.
Mark R. Kramer and William E. Bickel explore, in Chapter Three, why cur-rent foundation-sponsored evaluation does not generally produce greater benefits for foundations in the areas of organizational learning and the sharing of knowledge. The reasons, they propose, lie in a number of systemic and cultural barriers. On the foundation side, these barriers include insufficient attention to foundation performance, implicit acceptance of professional autonomy for managers and program officers, and the time pressures of the grant cycle. On the evaluation side, the barriers include the difficulties of determining the qualifications of evaluators, the political pressures on evaluators, and evaluators' tendency to focus on individual grantee projects rather than overall foundation strategies or organizational development. Despite these challenges, Kramer and Bickel pro-vide several current illustrations of exemplary foundation practice and suggest several strategies for positive change, beginning with a call for strong leadership and management on the part of foundations.
Relationships between foundations and their grantees can be affected by evaluation plans and requirements. In Chapter Four, Michael Quinn Patton, John Bare, and Deborah G. Bonnet review several types of foundation-grantee relationships, as well as ways that these relationships can be strained at various points in the grantmaking process, including the special tensions related to evaluation. The authors argue that clear and ongoing communication can alleviate some but not all of these strains. The process of risk analysis is then presented as a promising strategy for enhancing communication and otherwise alleviating stress.
In Chapter Five, Jennifer C. Greene, Ricardo A. Millett, and Rodney K. Hop-son focus on an educative vision of evaluation; they extend this to a democratizing vision that can directly confront the evaluation challenges of privilege, power, and authority via meaningful participation, voice, and engagement of program beneficiaries and their communities. They make a case for the importance of foundations in realizing this vision of evaluation and provide key principles and strategies for conducting educative and democratizing evaluations of foundation programs.
Laura C. Leviton and William E. Bickel, in Chapter Six, present seven types of foundation cycles that collectively determine the fundamental work routine of foundations. Foundations' evaluation activities, argue the authors, must be integrated into these fundamental routines if those activities are to prove useful. The cycles relate to the course of a funded grant project, the life cycles of pro-grams, the annual payout requirement (that is, the program decision-making cycle), business cycles affecting the foundation's endowment, the life cycles of nonprofit organizations, board voting schedules, and the waxing and waning of areas of institutional emphasis. What are the attendant challenges of these complicated pat-terns for individuals concerned with evaluation efforts? The individuals must recognize the cycles, the concomitant points in time when the organization is most in need of evaluative information, and the questions that most need addressing at each of these points.
Resources are usually more limited than one would like, even in foundations, and evaluation can be expensive. In Chapter Seven, Melvin M. Mark and William L. Beery address the issue of how allocation decisions regarding evaluation re-sources can be made. Two major questions must be tackled every time an evaluation planning decision is at hand. First, what should be evaluated? This might include the individual grant, a group of grants with similar activities, a group of grants with similar purpose (though different activities), a foundation's strategic initiative, or some other option. Second, at what level of intensity should this evaluation be conducted? The intensity dimension has implications for the standard of rigor to be applied, the degree of oversight that the evaluation will require, and the choice of an internal versus third-party evaluator. Mark and Beery describe the criteria to use in resolving these planning decisions, and they illustrate their points with a recent example from the Packard Foundation.
Foundations are complex organizations, and evaluation is a flexible endeavor that can take many forms and answer many questions. Ross E Conner, Victor Kuo, Marli S. Melton, and Ricardo A. Millett have worked for and in foundations of various sizes, small to large. In Chapter Eight, they share their perspectives on four important foundation factors that influence evaluation planning, implementation, and use. First, what is the effect of resource level on evaluation activities? Second, how do factors within the foundation context influence decisions about the focus of evaluation efforts? Third, is the foundation's organizational climate supportive of evaluation for accountability purposes and improvement learning? Finally, how are evaluation activities influenced by the diversity of stakeholders and the questions they would like addressed? When these factors are acknowledged and their influences are used productively, evaluation is more likely to be embraced and to be useful to the foundation's operations.
In Chapter Nine, Patricia Patrizi and Edward Pauly take a strong position on the importance of adopting a field-based approach to evaluation. To increase effectiveness and accountability, philanthropy is urged to open up its planning and decision-making processes to new sources of information and perspectives. Evaluation will become more relevant and useful if foundation and field leaders work together to define the goals of evaluation and specify its questions. Field-based evaluation and field-generated questions would address issues of deeper significance and, in turn, enhance philanthropic effectiveness. The authors at-tribute foundations' disappointment with evaluation to the habit of conducting narrowly defined studies that have not taken into account the larger field context. If evaluation is to contribute to social betterment, it must look at two larger questions: (1) What would enable the whole field to be more effective in meeting society's needs? and (2) What does the field need to know to be truly effective?
The majority of foundations in this country are small, with few or no regular staff and little if any experience in using evaluation. Yet these foundations can benefit from using systematically collected data to answer questions about the pro-grams they fund. Chapter Ten addresses this audience of small foundations. Marli S. Melton, Jana Kay Slater, and Wendy L. Constantine discuss low-cost approaches to evaluation. This chapter is most relevant for foundations in the initial stages of incorporating evaluation into their ongoing activities. The chapter be-gins with evaluative approaches for internally reviewing a foundation's grant-making practices. Next, methods are suggested for introducing evaluation to grantees, including logic modeling. Finally, evaluative methods for making site visits are suggested. Throughout the chapter, examples of reporting forms are provided to illustrate their potential in building evaluative practices into grant-making, at both the foundation and grantee levels.
With increasing frequency, foundations are funding complex community initiatives that can involve multiple delivery sites and, in some cases, cooperative grantmaking across foundations. These initiatives are multifaceted phenomena that pose sizable challenges for description, coordination, and measurement. In Chapter Eleven, Debra J. Rog and James R. Knickman discuss the difficulties inherent in conducting outcome evaluations of such initiatives. For example, the initiatives usually require long timeframes of several years or more to become well established and ready for evaluation; they also evolve over time, and local project sites develop unique features, based on the unique characteristics of their communities. Yet the investment in such projects can be considerable, and evaluation is often deemed an essential component. Rog and Knickman therefore offer several suggestions for evaluation efforts, based on the need for strategic evaluative thinking.
Questions about program effectiveness are central to much of evaluation practice and potential use by foundations, yet rarely does evaluation provide simple and conclusive answers to questions about the effects of funded programs. In Chapter Twelve, Norman A. Constantine and Marc T. Braverman discuss important issues in appraising evidence on program effectiveness. The main goals of this chapter are to motivate and support more critical appraisal and better use of effectiveness evidence among evaluators and evaluation consumers. Common sources of ambiguity and misinterpretation are discussed, with strategies for recognizing and dealing with these challenges. Examples from several influential evaluations are used to illustrate these points.
Chapter Thirteen is written directly to foundation-funded grantees. E. Jane Davidson, Michael M. Howe, and Michael Scriven explain how grantees can build evaluation and evaluative thinking into their projects in ways that benefit their own organizations. Examples and suggestions are provided on using evaluation to develop more compelling proposals, increase the chance of project success, inspire and focus project staff, provide a means of demonstrating the value of an organization's activities to its supporters and critics, and contribute to our under-standing of what works in achieving social betterment. This chapter is oriented toward building on a grantee's existing strengths, minimizing evaluation anxiety, and expanding payoffs to grantees.
Finally, in Chapter Fourteen, Lester W. Baxter and Marc T Braverman discuss the communication of evaluation results. They propose that one of the reasons for the limited use of evaluation findings is the lack of attention paid to the communication process and the needs of specific audiences. They present an analysis of potential evaluation audiences, including those that are internal to the foundation (trustees, managers, program officers, and in-house evaluators) and those external to it (grantees, government, other foundations, the public, and media). The authors also present a range of communication modes and discuss the use of these modes with the various types of audiences. They emphasize that communication decisions must be made strategically to optimize the value of the information for the people who will be using it.
Two central themes that can be discerned through all the chapters in this volume are (1) the challenges for evaluators in accommodating the ways that foundations are structured, and (2) the benefits evaluation can provide to foundations, given their unique organizational characteristics. Foundations deal in information. Through the reports they commission, the scholarship they promote, and the work they support, information is one of their primary stocks in trade. One might wonder, then, at the factors that make the practice of evaluation such a difficult challenge in the foundation world. Why, after all, wouldn't foundations eagerly seek the information that evaluation promises to provide—information about their own plans, activities, operations, partners, and achievements?
One answer, of course, is that along with the potential benefits there are significant costs to the use of evaluation. The information produced must be seen as worth these costs, which include the diversion of financial resources, the need to ask difficult and sometimes painful questions, the tensions inherent in organizational change, and the attempt to impose transparency and rigor on decision processes that might otherwise be comfortably arbitrary or political. As we have noted, foundations, for the most part, are not required to conduct evaluations. Other institutions in society, by contrast, are subject to pressures from multiple internal and external stakeholders, who demand the forms of examination that are inherent in evaluation. More than any other type of organization, foundations are free to conduct evaluation and to demand it as an activity by their grantees only if they see the value in it—or, to state it more simply, only if they want to.
Therefore, as foundations operate today, if evaluation is to become a vital and indispensable component of how they function, it will need to be because of the inherent value that evaluation provides. Unless foundations' operating environments change (and that is certainly possible), their adoption of evaluation will not be compelled by outside requirements or pressures from external audience demands. This unique characteristic of the foundation world demands both imagination and pragmatism on the part of evaluators who work in the nonprofit sector. In that sense, philanthropic foundations represent one of the most challenging of all laboratories for the discipline of evaluation to demonstrate its value.
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