Developing or Renewing Your Foundation Strategy

About this collection: This Content Collection features NCFP research, webinars, and additional resources to use as your foundation or family considers its overall strategy and approach to philanthropy.

Foundation strategy encompasses the philosophical and practical considerations of a family’s philanthropy. What values does the family share, and how do they translate those values into their giving? How do the staff and board make the choices needed to develop a strategy that achieves impact and reflects the family’s vision?

Start by reviewing NCFP’s Family Giving Lifecycle Primer, Impact Strategies & Tools, and see below for additional guidance.

Strategy Planning

“Pretty Good Tools” for Collaboration, Strategy, and Partnership

Tool
If you’re a philanthropy practitioner — staff member or trustee — these tools should be useful. The Giving Practice works with foundations and philanthropy organizations of all types and sizes, and they hear common questions and dilemmas. The Giving Practice's consultants are developed Pretty Good Tools to help you with the …

Strategic, Responsive, or Both?

Article
Responsive grantmaking is being open to receiving proposals and ideas from any nonprofit, and allowing the nonprofits to drive the agenda. Requests are initiated by the nonprofit, rather than by a funder seeking them out. This doesn’t mean that a foundation doesn’t have core areas of focus, but …

Strategic Philanthropy: Maximizing Family Engagement and Social Impact

Passages Issue Briefs
For the sake of family cohesion and engagement, many family foundations base their grantmaking on the varied personal interests of their trustees. The unfortunate result is a scattershot grantmaking portfolio, with limited social impact. Conversely, a family foundation risks excluding family members if they are not interested in a shared …

Beyond Grantmaking

Article
“Foundations do not need a lot of money to be effective,” Ylvisaker declared. “If, indeed, they were to exploit only a fraction of the strategies available to them, their individual and collective impact on American life would be vastly and beneficially expanded.” Charles W. Collier, senior philanthropic adviser at Harvard …

Beyond The Rhetoric: Foundation Strategy

Article
How do foundations maximize their impact? What is the role of strategy? Is your foundation strategic? Are you? This groundbreaking research examines the current state of decision making at large, private, U.S. foundations.

Special grantmaking: A purposeful, flexible resource for foundations

Article
Many foundations that are guided by a long-term commitment to move the needle in a finite set of issue areas also hold “special grantmaking” funds. These program dollars can be flexibly deployed for nascent opportunities, innovative ideas, emergencies, local causes, and/or areas of high interest to their leaders. Little …

Strategy and Evaluation: The Twin Engines of Effective Philanthropy

Article
This essay provides a fast-paced tour of grantmaker approaches, launching with the advent of long-range planning in the 1980s and visiting scenario planning, social return on investment, human-centered design, big data, and other developments that have influenced practice. The author lands on strategy and evaluation as the anchor approaches that …

Strategic Planning

Many foundations develop or reassess their strategy through a strategic planning process. Below are sample strategic plan that show a wide range of planning processes and outcomes.

More example strategic plans can be found here. Another useful resource for those looking to engage an outside voice in this process is Hiring a Strategic Planning Consultant.

Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how families have developed and changed their philanthropic strategies:

Other Related Content Collections

In addition to the above resources, NCFP’s Knowledge Center features a variety of other Content Collections which inform the practice of strategic philanthropy. These include:

Advocacy and Lobbying: Foundation Law and Other Resources

Capacity Building: Why, When, and How

Impact Investing

Privacy and Transparency: Anonymous vs. Public Giving

Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Strategic Lifespan and Limited Life Foundations

Taking Risks and Learning From Mistakes

Theories of Change