Foundation Accountability Lessons Cast Technorati Wide
I didn't expect to be buried with relevant links when I entered the words "foundation" and "accountability" into Technorati, a popular search engine for blogs. So imagine my surprise to find a sponsored link (paid advertising which appears based on key search words entered) at the top of the page from The Wallace Foundation!
The link pointed to a four-age paper, penned by the Foundation's president, M. Christine DeVita who states, "for an increasing number of foundations, thoughtful responses to calls for accountability go beyond finances and government practices to measures of program results and public value in short, to organizational effectiveness."
She adds: Our journey began more than five years ago when we asked ourselves the 'so what' question: Foundations measure their performance in terms of asset size and annual grants awarded. We gave away $60 million last year. So what? What did we accomplish? What did it change? Did it create anything of value? What lessons were learned? And how do we know?"
Wallace's findings confirm my experience with a handful of community foundations (Cincinnati, Richmond, Marin, New Haven, Omaha to name a few) that have also been working over the past five years to capture and communicate impact. Based on practice, I think we all would agree with DeVita in what I would assert as the main points of her paper: 1.) Just do it. (Don't stall because it won't be perfect.) and 2.) Don't try and do it all. (Or you won't end up following through with any of it.) DeVita goes on to add an important final point, 3.) Come up with "real verdicts" that enable you to answer the question, "Is year-to-year progress toward each of our goals satisfactory or not?" None of this is new for nonprofits that have been pressured over the past decade to increase their accountability and Wallace's lessons are obviously valid for both foundations and nonprofits. What is refreshing is to see a foundation shouting loud and blogosphere-proud that "what is good for the goose is good for the grantor."