Opening Up About the Good and the Bad: Knowledge Sharing to Advance Philanthropy
New GrantCraft guide explores practical steps foundations can take to openly share knowledge
Manager of Knowledge Services Communications
New York, NY — April 30, 2018. A new guide released today by GrantCraft, a free service of Foundation Center, explores how funders can open up and share their knowledge with the rest of the social sector, and beyond. Open for Good: Knowledge Sharing to Strengthen Grantmaking, supported by the Fund for Shared Insight, illustrates practical steps that all donors can take to create a culture of shared learning.
Each year, foundations make $5 billion in grants toward knowledge production. These assessments, evaluations, communities of practice, and key findings are valuable, yet only a small fraction of foundations share what they learn, with even fewer using open licenses or open repositories to share these learnings. Foundations have demonstrated that some of the information they value most are lessons about “what did and didn’t work.” And yet, this is the knowledge that foundations themselves are often most reluctant to share.
The guide, part of Foundation Center’s larger #OpenForGood campaign, makes a strong case for foundations to openly share knowledge as an integral and strategic aspect of philanthropy. Through interviews with leaders in knowledge sharing, the guide outlines tested solutions to overcome common barriers to imparting learnings, as well as essential components needed for funders to strengthen their knowledge-sharing practice. The guide emphasizes that sharing knowledge can deepen internal reflection and learning, lead to new connections and ideas, and promote institutional credibility and influence. Like other GrantCraft guides, it draws from the wisdom and real-world experiences of a variety of funders. “The basic idea here is to scale social sector knowledge so that everyone benefits and the field, collectively, grows smarter rather than more fragmented,” said Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center. “The solution and call to action here is actually a simple one—if you learn something, share something.”
Examples of specific ways that funders share their insight serve as potential models for others, for instance, The California Endowment takes explicit steps to encourage a learning culture by sharing learnings, whether good or bad, with their board, staff, and the community. Another example is the KDK-Harman Foundation, which was successful in restoring cuts to public education funding by tailoring and sharing its knowledge with policy makers in mind. “Up until recently, philanthropy wasn’t something you went and got a master’s degree in, it was all on-the-job learning,” said Cindy Rizzo, evaluation & strategy senior advisor at the Arcus Foundation. “When GrantCraft first came out, it was unprecedented that there was this practical compendium of information about how to do this work. I think that the kind of learning that we provide for one another at different levels of our professional development is really important.”
“Many grantmakers instinctively like the idea of sharing the knowledge they generate with others,” said Clare Nolan, co-founder of Engage R+D and author of the guide. “But in the face of competing priorities, a stronger case must be made for foundations to devote time and resources to sharing knowledge. The truth is that when foundations share knowledge generated through evaluation, strategy development, and thought leadership, they benefit not only others but also themselves.”
To further encourage funders to be more transparent, this week Foundation Center also announces the opening of a nomination period for the inaugural #OpenForGood Award as a way to bring due recognition and visibility to foundations who share challenges, successes, and failures to strengthen how we can think and act as a sector. Three winning foundations will demonstrate an active commitment to open knowledge and share their evaluations through IssueLab. Winners will receive technical support to create a custom knowledge center for themselves or a grantee, as well as promotional support in the form of social media and newsletter space. To nominate a foundation and to learn more about the award, visit: foundationcenter.org/openforgood/award.
Download the guide here: grantcraft.org/openforgood
Share and follow the conversation with the hashtag #OpenForGood
About Foundation Center
Established in 1956, Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. Foundation Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit Foundation Center's website each day and are served in its five regional hubs and its network of more than 400 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. For more information, please visit foundationcenter.org, call (212) 620-4230, or tweet us at @fdncenter.
GrantCraft offers resources that address questions confronting funders worldwide. This freely available platform offers content in formats such as guides, videos, and blog posts across various strategy and issue areas, all grounded in the practical wisdom of grantmakers. It is part of Foundation Center's suite of knowledge services, which connects donors to tools and resources they need to be more strategic. To explore resources, visit grantcraft.org and follow @grantcraft on Twitter.
This guide was produced as part of Foundation Center’s #OpenForGood campaign. #OpenForGood is Foundation Center’s call to action for foundations to learn from and share with their peers. Whether you are reading published reports on IssueLab, or exploring funder insights on GrantCraft, or digging into examples of foundation transparency on Glasspockets, you benefit from shared knowledge. And, when you share more of what you do and how you do it, you create momentum that makes knowledge sharing a regular part of doing business. The more you share your foundation's work, the greater the opportunities to make all our efforts more effective and farther reaching. To learn more, visit: foundationcenter.org/openforgood.
About the Author
Clare Nolan, MPP, co-founder of Engage R+D, is a nationally recognized research and evaluation consultant for the foundation, nonprofit, and public sectors. She has particular expertise in helping foundations to document and learn from their investments in systems and policy change, networks, scaling, and innovation. To learn more, visit engagerd.com and follow @claremnolan on Twitter.