Blog / Grantmakers & Donors

Strengthening Our Work Together

by Teri Behrens
Strengthening Our Work Together

Front cover of The Foundation Review, vol. 13, issue 1Volume 13, issue 1 of The Foundation Review comprises an eclectic set of articles on the work of foundations. A theme across all of these articles, though, is the importance of collaboration, whether with peers to foster learning, or across sectors and organizations within communities — or across the globe — to achieve impact.

In these divisive times, we hope these articles suggest ways to strengthen our work together.


Inside Volume 13, Issue 1:

Exploring Needs for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Practices in Arts and Culture Nonprofits in Denver, Colorado
Author: Christina McClelland

Here, McClelland summarizes the findings of a survey conducted by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation of leaders from 10 arts and culture nonprofits. The author recommends that arts grantmakers can most effectively support nonprofits in their diversity, equity, and inclusion work through building the field, supporting a diverse workforce, and measuring progress. As more funders intentionally focus on equity and justice, asking grantees what they need to support their DEI efforts is a critical step.

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Placing Bets in a Complex Environment: One Foundation’s Approach to the Opioid Epidemic
Author: Jill M. Yegian

While the COVID pandemic has captured the attention of the world, the opioid epidemic is still with us. It is one of many examples of foundations grappling with complex, cross-sector societal problems. In this article, Yegian describes a major effort by the California Health Care Foundation to reduce opioid-related morbidity and mortality. Their early investment had dramatic returns, laying the groundwork for scaling pilot projects statewide as hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding became available to address the crisis. Bridging across sectors, providing resources beyond dollars, and co-creation with grantees were key strategic choices that the author suggests might apply to addressing other complex social issues.

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The Development and Operation of Foundations in China
Author: Qun Wang

As philanthropy becomes increasingly globalized, it is important to understand cultural influences on how philanthropy is practiced. This understanding is particularly critical for funders who seek to partner internationally. Wang explores the history of Chinese foundations and examines their relationships with overseas funders across three time periods, providing practical information to practitioners who work, or will work, for or with foundations in China.

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Investing in Leadership Development: A Tool for Systems Change in the Community Health Center Field
Authors: Michael P. Arnold, Natalie J. Blackmur, Brenda Solórzano, Carolyn Wang Kong, Bobbie Wunsch, and Sunita Mutha

In this article, Arnold, Blackmur, Solórzano, Kong, Wunsch, and Mutha share their experiences with a 12-year investment by Blue Shield of California Foundation growing a pool of community health center leaders. The Clinic Leadership Institute was implemented in partnership with Healthforce Center at University of California, San Francisco in anticipation of a generation of health center leaders beginning to retire. A study spanning 10 cohorts of CLI alumni found that CLI served a critical role in supporting community health center leaders and their organizations in navigating these changes. As we anticipate extensive turnover in the leadership of the nonprofit sector in the near future as the baby boom generation retires, developing a more diverse pool of people equipped to take on leadership is critical. Focusing on building leadership for specific types of organizations, rather than broad leadership development, is a strategy to consider.

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Funder-Initiated Communities of Practice as a Means for Sharing and Creating Knowledge in Order to Strengthen the Adaptive Capacity of Systems
Authors: Claire Nicklin, Timothy Chancellor, Angelo Garcia, Linnet Gohole, Bettina Haussmann, Prudence Kaijage, Jane Maland Cady, Keith Miller, Marah Moore, Rebecca Nelson, Megan Powers, and Batamaka Somé

Bringing grantees together to share learning is a common practice in philanthropy. Nicklin, Chancellor, Garcia, Gohole, Haussmann, Kaijage, Cady, Miller, Moore, Nelson, Powers, and Somé explore the degree to which funders can initiate longer-term peer learning through communities of practice. The McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program initiated, supported, and participated in a CoP comprised of its grantees to share and create knowledge. Long-term investment in convenings and facilitation and relinquishing some control over outcomes were key to actors in Africa and the Andes region to develop adaptive capacity related to food system research and action through social learning. While convenings and networking meetings are helpful, this work shows that intentional long-term investment in shared learning should be considered as a key tactic.

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A Mission to Improve Health: Lessons From Missouri’s Expanding Coverage Initiative
Authors: Anna Saltzman, Shayla Spilker, and Megan Klenke-Isgriggs

In 2013, Missouri Foundation for Health launched a five-year effort to reduce Missouri’s uninsured rate. A broad-based state coalition employed a three-pronged approach: awareness building and outreach, enrollment assistance, and increasing health literacy. Saltzman, Spilker, and Klenke-Isgriggs report that the rate of uninsured Missourians dropped to 9% during the initiative’s time frame. Coalition members pointed to the value of collaboration, access to expertise, the locally tailored approach of the initiative, and the maintenance of a politically neutral stance in the effort to support the implementation of a complex federal policy.

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