'Philanthropy Framework' Offers Guide to Maximizing Impact

'Philanthropy Framework' Offers Guide to Maximizing Impact

A new report from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors offers an analysis and planning tool to help emerging and established philanthropies better align their resources for impact in a rapidly changing world.

Created with input from the leaders of more than fifty foundations, the Philanthropy Framework (56 pages, PDF) finds that, in the context of generational shifts in attitudes, massive wealth creation, diversification of capital, and new operating environments, philanthropies are broadening their activities from grantmaking to impact investing, knowledge building, advocacy, and coalition building — and need to change how they assess and allocate non-financial resources. To that end, the report lays out three core elements for a foundation to consider in determining how to maximize its impact: the charter, defined as the organization's scope, form of governance, and decision-making protocol; its social compact, entailing its implicit or explicit agreement with society about the value it hopes to create; and its operating model, including the approach to the resources, structures, and systems needed to implement strategy.

The framework prompts leaders to examine how their organization's decision-making processes, culture, guidelines or rules, breadth of mandate, and time horizon connect to its founding ideals. From there, leaders are encouraged to investigate six dimensions that affect an organization's social compact — accountability, legitimacy, transparency, influence on society, independence and interdependence, and approach to risk. Highlighting examples from contributors such as the Wellcome Trust, the California Endowment, and the FordS.D. Bechtel, Jr.KresgeLumina, and Episcopal Health foundations, the report outlines six key operating approaches, which exist on a spectrum — resourcing (buy vs. build), decision making (centralized vs. decentralized), initiative (proactive vs. responsive), flexibility (creative vs. disciplined), programming (broad vs. deep), and relationships (networked vs. independent) — and six key operating capabilities: talent, financial tools (impact investing, PRIs, grants, etc.), knowledge and strategic insights, reputation and influence, networks and relationships, and project management.  

"Emerging models of philanthropy in the last twenty years have transformed the traditional ways in which funders — whether they're individuals, families, corporations, or foundations — accomplish their goals, approach organizational design, and manage key resources," said Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors CEO Melissa A. Berman. "We worked with many of the largest, most thoughtful, and strategic global philanthropists to develop a practical, useful guide to enable existing, new, and next generation philanthropists to create more meaningful social impact. We are pleased to make the outcomes of this thinking available to others."

"New Philanthropy Framework Aims to Spur More Meaningful, Effective Social Change." Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Press Release 03/12/2019. "The Philanthropy Framework." Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Report 03/12/2019.