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Align, Adapt, Aspire: Ten Years of Community Foundation Business Model Evolution

September 20, 2013

Community foundations understand how the traditional community foundation business model falls short of new aspirations. Sustainability is an ongoing challenge and many community foundations work towards continually adapting their business model to support a changing context and achieve enough clarity to do so in a way that is aligned with values, strategy, and culture. In In Align, Adapt, Aspire: Ten Years of Community Foundation Business Model Evolution, CF Insights examines the evolution of community foundation business model and highlights principles behind successful community foundations given shifting community needs, donor priorities, and economic circumstances.

Seeking Shared Success: Business Model Innovation Through Mergers, Affiliations, and Alliances

February 1, 2011

Learn how alliances, affiliations, and mergers represent a path to enhanced sustainability and greater impact for community foundations. Hear perspectives from community foundation leaders, access tools for considering a new structure, and read case studies from six community foundations.

From Crisis to Opportunity: Learning from One Region's Response to the Economic Downturn

July 25, 2010

How can community giving practices be transformed, using lessons learned from the recent economic crisis?This report profiles a number of Pacific Northwest funders who have worked over the past year to respond to urgent community needs. While these actions were in direct response to the economic crisis at hand, the lessons learned from these community-based philanthropists can provide future direction for doing more with limited resources at any point in time. These funders were intentional about how best to apply and leverage their assets, and they collaborated with others to avoid wasting time, effort and money.

Fueling Impact: A Fresh Look at Business Model Innovation and New Revenue Sources

May 1, 2010

Do you want to know how community foundations are finding innovative new sources of support, and diversifying their revenue base? How new revenue sources strengthen each community foundation's differentiation and sustainability?Difficult economic times in 2008-2010 have been an important wake-up call -- a reminder that diversifying revenue sources is an essential component of a strong business model.

Exploring Options: Communicating Education Metrics

October 15, 2009

Communicating social metrics efficiently can be a challenging but essential component of effective program or advocacy strategy. Our research highlights eight types of communication tools, which demonstrate options to convey complex data to a wide range of users. While most of these tools highlight education-related metrics, each can be adapted and used in other fields as well.

Growing Smarter: Achieving Sustainability in Emerging Community Foundations: Executive summary

October 3, 2007

Most U.S. community foundations are like entrepreneurs in any dynamic industry. They face challenges in balancing their ambitious goals for community impact, growth and sustainability. The path to sustainability is not built on growth alone, but on defining desirable patterns of growth and asking thoughtful questions about the implications of choices being made.

Growing Smarter: Achieving Sustainability in Emerging Community Foundations: Discussion Guide

October 3, 2007

This straightforward but thought-provoking tool was created for community foundation board meetings. Managing growth and sustainability at today's community foundations requires strong board leadership. This guide features a series of questions related to growth and sustainability for emerging community foundations.

Growing Smarter: Achieving Sustainability in Emerging Community Foundations

September 1, 2007

It's a striking paradox: as community foundations grow their assets, their sustainability is often threatened. That's the conclusion of a new paper written by FSG Social Impact Advisors and sponsored by The James Irvine Foundation. "Growing Smarter: Achieving Sustainability in Emerging Community Foundations" is based on research with growing and small community foundations. The information and models presented have relevance to community foundations of virtually any size that are interested in better understanding and enhancing their economic models.

From Insight to Action: New Directions in Foundation Evaluation

April 15, 2007

The field of philanthropy is undergoing a fundamental transition toward more performance-centered and forward-looking evaluation approaches that provide foundations and their grantees with timely information and actionable insights. Our report highlights emerging evaluation practices and identifies major trends in the field related to increasing effectiveness for both foundations and grantees. Based on nearly 100 interviews with foundation leaders and evaluators, this report represents the first step in a multi-year action initiative to develop pragmatic evaluation approaches that enable foundations, large or small, to achieve greater social impact.

Measuring Success in Donor Development: Per Capita Giving Levels Highlight Successful Strategies

December 1, 2003

Every foundation wants to maximize its investment returns and achieve social impact with the leanest possible organization. Many standard metrics exist -- such as portfolio returns and operating cost ratios -- to help community foundations compare themselves to their peers and set appropriate performance targets. But community foundations also need to raise money from donors, and finding meaningful ways to measure this crucial aspect of their performance is much more complicated.It's easy enough to measure how much money comes in the door, but merely comparing the total contributions received by different community foundations doesn't take into account important variations in size and location. If community foundations are to learn from each other's success, they must find ways to cancel out these distortions and create truly comparable performance data. None of the measures community foundations currently use to gauge the success of their fundraising yet achieves this goal:Total ContributionsComparing total gifts received requires a rigorously-defined peer group to be meaningful. And given the substantial diversity in population and wealth within the areas served by community foundations, identifying a meaningful peer group is very difficult.Past PerformanceComparing this year's gifts with those received in prior years eliminates the challenge of peer group selection, but it doesn't permit foundations to learn from each other. Lower performing foundations will miss opportunities to improve and, of course, one or two large gifts in any year can make year-to-year comparisons meaningless.New funds establishedUsing the aggregate number of new funds established to serve as a proxy for the foundation's penetration of potential donors in its service area is also susceptible to the low expectations trap: It is difficult to measure performance or to set objectives effectively without a sense of the region's potential for giving.Our experience suggests that a new measure -- per capita giving within the foundation's service area -- combined with a new goal setting process can enable community foundations to better understand their own performance and highlight successful strategies.

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.

The Evaluation of Capacity Building Grants: Key Learnings for a Successful Program

January 1, 2003

Whether prompted by venture philanthropy, high engagement grantmaking, or a growing interest in nonprofit management, many foundations now have programs aimed at capacity building for their grantees. Grants from these programs are often highly targeted to meet the specific organizational needs of individual grantees. But how can a foundation get from the apples and oranges of individual grantee results to a succinct way of reporting overall program achievements? This was the question that the Maine Community Foundation (MCF) brought to FSG. Our analysis not only helped them evaluate their program, it also highlighted three basic lessons that can increase the likelihood of success for any capacity building initiative.