Lesson #12: How Do We Know How We’re Doing?

December 19, 2023

Hi everyone! Welcome to the next instalment of our lessons series. I know it’s been a little bit since my last post, I’ve been suffering from a strong case of writer's block. After a trip to the beach and a walk around the block, I feel ready to sit down and write about the last few months.

So where do I start? 

I feel like this year flew by, but October and November especially disappeared in the blink of an eye. 

In October, I (over)packed my suitcase and headed to the airport  to begin my journey to Baltimore, MD to attend the Exponent Philanthropy 2023 Annual Conference. I always find traveling in October hard since the weather can be so unpredictable. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get, you have to prepare in case you have sunny warm temperatures, cold chilly weather, and the awkward in between.  

If you haven’t heard of Exponent Philanthropy before, it’s a collaborative network for lean funders (organizations with small / no staff), to talk about philanthropy, learnings, and best practices. During the conference, there were a number of incredibly interesting topics discussed. Let’s just say my notebook was filled with scribbles and take away reflections. But what really stood out to me was a common discussion that came up “How can we measure our impact?” 

It’s an interesting question because in many (almost all) of the cases, lean funders provide funding and support to grantees, and we can measure their impact through donor reports, and milestones. However, how do we, as a Foundation, measure our approach, our impact, and where we can improve? When I think about evaluating the Foundation and how we’re doing, I think about our mission statement, our vision, and our values. Are we doing everything we can to ensure success for our grantees? Are we creating a space where grantees feel comfortable to bring us the barriers they face so we can try to troubleshoot with them? Are the grants we’re funding in alignment with our strategic priorities & mission statement?

I think there are a lot of ways to go about looking at how well we’re doing, but there really aren’t a lot of resources available to help Foundation’s essentially “grade” how they’re doing. It’s a loaded question, with a magnitude of different answers and approaches, and I’m curious about what other Foundation’s think and/or approach this question. 

I’d love to hear from anyone who might relate to this and how they think about evaluating themselves and the work of their organization. 



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