Irvine’s Board of Directors recently took time at their annual retreat to pose the question: What will the most effective foundations of the future look like? On hand to enliven the discussion were three leading experts in the field:

Lucy Bernholz, a highly regarded philanthropy blogger and managing director of Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors, discussed forecasts about the social economy that were contained in her Blueprint 2012 report. The social economy, as Bernholz defines it, expands the traditional concept of the space between government and commerce where philanthropy and nonprofits reside to include all of the ways we use private resources to create, fund and distribute public goods. In short, it refers to all the ways that we direct private resources to public goods and Bernholz sees great potential for innovation and collaboration within the field.

Brad Smith, president of the Foundation Center, emphasized the growing importance of data collection, analysis and evaluation within the field of philanthropy. One practice of the best foundations of the future, according to Brad, will be to utilize systems that provide timely and comprehensive data at a global level, leading to increased transparency and an increased ability to identify peers and collaborators on issues.

The themes covered by both Bernholz and Smith were reflected in themes raised by Katherine Fulton, president of the Monitor Institute. The Monitor Institute’s report on What’s Next for Philanthropy served as a good jumping off point for a conversation that looked at 10 ways foundations can “act bigger” or “adapt better” to achieve their aims. It’s a strong and well-reasoned list, and served as a good exercise for our board to consider. I encourage you to read the full report or view the two-page list of those “next practices” here.

Our thanks to Lucy, Brad and Katherine for provoking an engaging discussion by our board and senior staff. Do you have ideas to share on what could make foundations more effective? We welcome your thoughts on the question.

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.


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