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February Must-Reads

This month brought insight for nonprofits and grantmakers looking to better engage community members, think more concretely about power, and embed equity in their organizations and their evaluation practices. It also brought advice for grantmakers on tuning in to what nonprofits need most. What caught your attention this month?

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This month brought insight for nonprofits and grantmakers looking to better engage community members, think more concretely about power, and embed equity in their organizations and their evaluation practices. It also brought advice for grantmakers on tuning in to what nonprofits need most.

What caught your attention this month?

1. The Time is Now to Embed Equity in Evaluation Practices

LEARNING & EVALUATION | Center for Effective Philanthropy | 6-minute read

Evaluation can, and should, be used in service of equity, says Jara Dean-Coffey of the Equitable Evaluation Initiative. As the primary purchasers and users of evaluation in the social sector, funders play a critical role in this. Rather than tweak their approach to evaluation, funders should reconsider their approach altogether. Dean-Coffey shares three principles in which new evaluation practices should be rooted and invites funders to consider four questions when engaging in evaluative work.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT | Stanford Social Innovation Review | 6-minute read

The better that city government officials understand residents’ lives, the more effective policy they can create. Yet doing so often takes time, money, and a willingness to experiment. After a year of researching how nonprofits, philanthropy, and local government in Philadelphia engaged with community members, the authors identified three ways social sector leaders can bring together the expertise of residents and city government.

EQUITY | Human Impact Partners | 6-minute read

Public health is increasingly focused on “upstream” causes, looking beyond individual behavior to health disparities. While this shift is leading to important interventions, “slightly upstream” work is not equity work, writes Nashira Baril, project director at Human Impact Partners. Baril argues that the field needs to recognize racism as a root cause of health inequity, but beyond that, it must recognize when “upstream” approaches are accommodating people within an inequitable system rather than shifting the system itself.

4. Race to Lead: Women of Color in the Nonprofit Sector

EQUITY | Building Movement Project | Executive summary: 5-minute read; Full report: 60-minute read

Women of color in the nonprofit sector face big obstacles to their advancement, reveals the newest report in Building Movement Project’s Race to Lead series. The report highlights key findings from a survey of more than 4,000 nonprofit staff and includes several calls to action for how the sector can change inequitable systems, how organizations can change, and how individuals can support each other to ensure a fair and supportive workplace for women of color.

STRATEGY | National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy | 9-minute read

Many of us in the social sector use the word “power” a lot, but what exactly do we mean when we say it? In this blog post, the president of the Chorus Foundation, Farhad Ebrahimi, outlines three types of power, encouraging readers to distinguish among these types of power and consider each type within the broader ecosystem of power:

  • Political Power: The ability to influence or control collective decision-making
  • Economic Power: The ability to produce, distribute, trade, or consume goods and services
  • Cultural Power: The ability to influence or control how we perceive and what we believe about the world around us

For more on shifting organizational culture, explore our field guide for creating a change-making culture.

Bonus article: How Grant Makers Can Tune In to What Nonprofits Need Most

(Requires a subscription to the Chronicle of Philanthropy)

GRANTMAKING STRATEGY | Chronicle of Philanthropy | 6-minute read

To better meet grantees’ needs, the Ford Foundation requested an independent analysis of its grantmaking practices. The analysis showed that more than half of the foundation’s grantees suffered from frequent or chronic budget deficits, and 40 percent had fewer than three months of reserves. In this blog post, Hillary Pennington and Kathy Reich of the Ford Foundation write that, as they listened to grantees in one-on-one conversations, they heard “we were exacerbating these problems by our approach to grantmaking,” an approach that included elements like funding one year and one project at a time. They heard from grantees a deeply felt need for funding for indirect costs. This blog post demonstrates how funders can ask themselves hard questions, invest time and money in understanding the answers, deeply listen to grantees and communities, share transparently about what they learn, and make changes in response.

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