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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.

Growing a Diverse Health Workforce: Lessons Learned and Insights from Investments in Health Career Pathways

November 1, 2018

The California Endowment launched 21st Century Pathways to Health Careers in 2013 to expand the capacity of the state's health systems following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The career pathway strategy focused on developing programs and systems that prepare youth for careers in health care and sought to engage K-12 students, entry-level health workers, and youth of color training for health careers in underserved communities. These efforts were designed to increase access to high-quality, cost-effective care for a growing number of insured Californians. Varying combinations of these strategies were implemented across the 14 Building Healthy Communities (BHC) sites.

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.

Supporting Entrepreneurs: A Longitudinal Impact Study of Accion and Opportunity Fund Small Business Lending in the U.S.

April 1, 2018

The Longitudinal Impact Study of Accion and Opportunity Fund Small Business Lending in the U.S. is a first-of-its-kind national, longitudinal, qualitative examination of these outcomes. It reports on a nationwide cohort of 350 Accion and Opportunity Fund borrowers who were followed for as long as three years post loan in order to understand the impact of small business lending services on their businesses, their personal financial security, and their overall quality of life. The study examined how business owners define success and how access to capitalsupports their goals. Findings from this study not only identify opportunities for lenders to better meet the needs of entrepreneurs, they also provide evidence to other lenders, policymakers, and small business supports about the ability of micro- and small-business lending to transform lives.

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.

Engaging Family, Friend, and Neighbor Informal Caregivers

April 1, 2017

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation's Children, Families and Communities program is investing in exploratory projects to learn more about informal care settings. The overall goal of this work is to test strategies to provide information to family, friends, and neighbors (FFN), or informal caregivers, connect them with resources as well as each other, and support them in providing quality care for young children. Harder+Company Community Research, in partnership with the Center for Evaluation Innovation, conducted an evaluation of four informal care grants with an emphasis on learning from and with grantees, and using evaluation tools to support and strengthen the projects.

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.

Supporting Entrepreneurs: Preliminary Findings from Accion & Opportunity Fund Small Business Lending Impact Study

January 1, 2017

As two of the nation's leading nonprofit small business lenders, Accion, The US Network (Accion) and Opportunity Fund help entrepreneurs thrive by providing affordable capital and support services so they can start a new business endeavor or grow an existing enterprise.Accion and Opportunity Fund came together to develop a first-of-its-kind national longitudinal study of the impact of small business loans in the United States. With lead funding from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and with support from S&P Global, the study aims to uncover the qualitative impacts of lending on individuals, their businesses, and their broader communities. This study, conducted by Harder+Company Community Research, builds on the body of previous evaluation work that showed small businesses that receive loans create and retain jobs, increase revenue, and have high business survival rates. Following a cohort of more than 500 borrowers across the country, this study examines how business owners define success and how access to finance improves their entrepreneurial goals, financial health, and quality of life. By focusing on the longer-term impacts of small business lending while examining variations due to business type, geography, and other factors, the study will help deepen our understanding of how mission-based business lending impacts individuals, families, and communities.This report includes preliminary findings collected during this first phase of the study. While entrepreneurs reported perceived and actual impact to date, these changes will be tracked over time to examine the ways in which they are or are not sustained, and how these changes compare across and within lending regions.

Experiments in Arts Engagement: Case Studies

September 6, 2016

This set of seven case studies provides real-world examples and practical tips to enrich lessons identified in prior report, "Emerging Lessons and Implications from the Exploring Engagement Fund." The nine featured arts organizations vary by size, discipline, and geography. All pursue projects to engage participants from communities of color and low-income groups.

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.