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The Water of Systems Change

June 4, 2018

Foundations involved in systems change can increase their odds for success by focusing on the least explicit but most powerful conditions for change, while also turning the lens on themselves.Through defining the 6 conditions of systems change and highlighting organizations that are shifting systems, The Water of Systems Change explores:How systemic conditions perpetuate inequity and reinforce racism, sexism, or ableism;The critical need for foundations to focus on changing relationships and connections, power dynamics, and mental models in their work;How foundations can build the capacity to support systems change internally and externally.

Understanding the Value of Backbone Organizations in Collective Impact

July 17, 2012

Effective backbone support is a critical condition for collective impact. In fact, it is the number one reason that collective impact initiatives fail. In this publication, we provide communities and organizations engaged in collective impact with guidance on the role of the backbone and how to understand and support its effectiveness.In the Greater Cincinnati region, collective impact has become the "new normal," and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) has made a commitment to support the infrastructure of collective impact - the backbone organization itself - in an effort to sustain and scale long-term systemic change and impact in the community. However, the role of the backbone organization in collective impact is complex and can be difficult to explain.In early 2012, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and FSG began a partnership to define the value of backbone organizations and better understand back-bone effectiveness by working with six local backbone organizations and collective impact initiatives.

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.

Collective Impact

January 1, 2011

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.

Raising Money While Raising Hell: Catalytic Community Leadership and Successful Fundraising for Community Foundations

October 1, 2009

This paper debunks the myth that advocacy-oriented community leadership is naturally antithetical to fundraising, and highlights examples where foundations have built their fundraising efforts by playing advocacy-oriented community leadership roles. 

Best in Class: How Top Corporations Can Help Transform Public Education

May 1, 2007

This FSG white paper, released in May 2007 and sponsored by Ernst and Young LLP, provides a critical assessment of opportunities for corporations to help transform the U.S. public education system through innovative corporate philanthropy. Based on six months of research and dozens of interviews with corporate philanthropy leaders, education nonprofit executives and educators, the paper maps the myriad of opportunities available for corporations to engage in education reform and details a range of lessons learned. In addition, it includes a call to action for corporations to raise their own expectations of corporate philanthropy in education to adopt systemic thinking, replicate and scale effective initiatives, and take collective action. By any measure, the U.S. education system faces daunting challenges. Among developed countries, the U.S. ranks 20th out of 28 in math scores, and a shockingly high number of students don't finish high school. However, the situation is far from hopeless. In fact, some leading corporations have decades of experience helping to turn around the most intractable problems in education. They have recognized that to remain competitive in today's global economy, schools must produce graduates who are prepared for the 21st century workforce.

Changing the Game

April 1, 2006

Companies today understand that corporate social responsibility (CSR) forms an inextricable part of their reputations and brand identities. They spend ever-increasing amounts of corporate resources on improving the social, human, and environmental conditions under which companies operate. Yet the world's problems seem as intractable as ever, and very few global companies have managed to rise above the public relations din to truly distinguish themselves through their CSR activities. One of the primary reasons CSR has not yet significantly improved society is that the nonprofit and business sectors are for the most part still stuck in their old stereotypical roles. By ceding responsibility for solving social problems to nonprofits, companies have forsaken their ability to intervene directly in healing the world's woes. As a result, some of the most sophisticated and powerful organizations in the world remain on the sidelines of social progress. Companies that get into the game and play to win will reap disproportionate social impact, economic rewards, and reputational benefits.

Benchmarking Philanthropy

December 1, 2004

The CEO's question of "How are we doing?" can strike fear into the hearts of executives responsible for corporate philanthropy. Unlike almost every other area of corporate activity, there are no tried and true methods for benchmarking philanthropic performance. Beyond counting the volunteer hours and dollars given away, companies are left to determine the value and impact of their philanthropy in a vacuum.Yet FSG has found that benchmarking philanthropic performance against industry peers is possible -- and extremely helpful in finding ways to increase both the business and social benefit of every dollar the company contributes. Many of the same principles that make benchmarking so important to other corporate activities, such as marketing, product development and sales, can be extended to a company's philanthropy -- and knowing how you are doing relative to your competitors turns out to be just as important in making good social investments as it does in making other kinds of investment decisions.

Leading Boldly: Foundations Can Move Past Traditional Approaches to Create Social Change Through Imaginative -- Even Controversial -- Leadership

December 1, 2004

Rarely do foundations publicly communicate their dissatisfaction with their grantees, withhold funds, or use tactics that carry the risks of creating ill will. Yet extraordinary results can be achieved if foundations were more imaginative, visible, and controversial. Three foundations shocked the city of Pittsburgh in 2002 by abruptly suspending their funding to local public schools. The foundations announced their decision in a news conference that attracted both local and national coverage -- a sharp departure from their usual approach of working quietly behind the scenes. Foundation executives explained that they had completely lost confidence in the ability of the local school board to run the district. Their action yielded a community-wide process that led to real change. Here's how foundations can exercise Adaptive Leadership without misusing authority.

Design for Giving: Understanding What Motivates Corporate Philanthropy

December 1, 2003

What motivates corporate philanthropy? Since corporate giving is often fragmented, both in the sense of where grants originate within a company and where they are distributed, corporations typically lack a clear and comprehensive picture of their overall philanthropic expenditures and investments. In examining the giving patterns of corporations and other foundations, we have found that the vast majority of grants can be explained by three motivational clusters. Maximizing impact means managing the mix.

Strengthening Community Foundations - Redefining the Opportunities

October 1, 2003

Commissioned by the Council on Foundations and released in October 2003, this white paper details the findings and the implications of our study of costs and revenues at nine community foundations. Offering a new perspective for community foundation sustainability, the white paper proposes that community foundations examine their strategy and operations on a product-by-product basis, taking into account their mission-driven priorities, internal costs, customer preferences and the competing donor alternatives for each type of product or service they offer.