Problems are related, but too often
grantmaking is not. Foundations need to work for more coherence in
their efforts by locating their missions in the context of the Common
Good and by exploring and addressing the relationships between and
among various issues and problems. Society is not simply an
aggregation of phenomena, problems, issues and concerns, but rather a
multifaceted system in which all components are related to one
another and to the Common Good. Foundation strategies that reflect
this vision can bring together discrete problem analyses and program
initiatives for more coherent and effective grantmaking.
Foundation funding practices have
helped create “silos” in the nonprofit sector where broad
social, economic, political and environmental problems are broken
down into fragmented issues with groups specializing in narrow
approaches to their resolution. Funding too often is done by program
areas that cast problems in ways that are simplistic and isolated
from the complicated realities in which organizations work. Many
foundations solicit and reward proposals that treat problems as
separate and disconnected phenomena, and favor short-term approaches
easily amenable to quantifiable outcome measures whether or not they
identify and address the dynamics that are at the heart of the
Consequently, too many nonprofit
organizations have narrowly tailored their programs and missions and
are becoming more specialized in focus as they more narrowly define
their issues and constituencies. No matter how effective the
narrower programs might be, these efforts will ultimately hold less
consequence for substantive and sustainable change than would more
comprehensive initiatives that sought to concurrently benefit the
Specific passion and a particular focus
can be helpful, but a narrow grantmaking program may too often be the
result of our unexamined habits of thinking, rather than broader
concern, analyses and planning which will better serve a foundation’s
goals while advancing the Common Good.
Foundations, internally and in their
grantmaking, need to promote a philanthropic and nonprofit culture
that brings together separate program areas and joins rigidly
segmented categories. They need to enable organizations to overcome
false dichotomies that restrict community engagement, and to join
together what have been thought of as separate types of program
activity such as service delivery and advocacy. Foundations can
often be most effective when they support collaborations that
integrate divisions in the nonprofit sector and that seek to form
coherent and comprehensive strategies for the pursuit of the Common
SUGGESTED STRATEGY 3: Foundations should promote learning, collaboration and
synthesis across fields, divisions, and organizations to yield
benefits for their specific missions and to advance the Common Good.
Foundations should build effectiveness by promoting problem
definitions, analyses and programming that are more coherent and
collaborative, and by encouraging their grantees to propose programs
in reference to the Common Good. In addition, foundations should
provide support to multi-issue organizations, as well as to groups of
organizations which collaborate across issue and program divisions.
3.1 Support and design
initiatives that bring together leaders of disparate organizations
and provide them with the opportunity to explore commonalities and
build collaboration, as well as to set their efforts in context of
the Common Good.
3.1.1 Support the efforts of grantees that share analyses and a sense of
the Common Good to widen their circle.
for comprehensive overviews in every program area that build on and
locate themselves in broad analyses.
3.1.3 Provide funding for the development of collaborations, and support
the building and maintenance of partnerships in service to the Common
3.1.4 Convene grantees that are potential collaborators, but don’t
3.2 Create systems-reform
opportunities by collaborating with other foundations.
3.3 Support programs that link
services, advocacy and civic participation.
3.4 Encourage all
grantees to at least consider public policy.
3.5 Recognize that the costs of
initiating, developing, and operating strategic collaborations go
beyond normal program activities, that they serve the Common Good,
and that participation in them itself requires financial support.
3.6 Assess the success of
collaborations, their continued institutionalization and
contributions to the Common Good as grant outcomes above and beyond
direct program accomplishments.