Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is an award-winning magazine and website that covers cross-sector solutions to global problems. SSIR is written by and for social change leaders from around the world and from all sectors of society—nonprofits, foundations, business, government, and engaged citizens. SSIR’s mission is to advance, educate, and inspire the field of social innovation by seeking out, cultivating, and disseminating the best in research- and practice-based knowledge. With print and online articles, webinars, conferences, podcasts, and more, SSIR bridges research, theory, and practice on a wide range of topics, including human rights, impact investing, and nonprofit business models. SSIR is published by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. Learn more:

Collective Impact

Posted on June 11, 2021

No single organization has the ability to solve any major social problem at scale by itself. Collective impact is a powerful new approach to cross-sector collaboration that is achieving measurable effects on major social issues. This article is also available in Spanish. Top Takeaways There are many examples of coordinated cross-sector collective impact efforts—including Strive, the Elizabeth River Project, Shape Up Somerville, and… Read More

The Dawn of System Leadership

Posted on June 4, 2021

Complex social problems require a unique type of leader: the system leader, individuals who catalyze collective leadership. Co-authored by Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton, and John Kania, this article illustrates the core capabilities required for system leadership through the stories of successful practitioners. Top Takeaways System leaders are not singular heroic figures but those who facilitate the conditions within which others can make… Read More

Listening to Those Who Matter Most, the Beneficiaries

Posted on August 25, 2020 by Valerie Threlfall, Fay Twersky, Phil Buchanan

To become more effective, nonprofits and foundations are turning to various sources for advice. Some look to experts who can share knowledge, research, and experience about what works—and what does not. Others turn to crowdsourcing to generate ideas and even guide decisions about future directions or funding. Experts and crowds can produce valuable insights. But too often nonprofits and funders… Read More
Voices from the Field

A ‘Balancing Test’ for Foundation Spending

Posted on March 10, 2020 by Dimple Abichandani

Editor’s Note: This article, by Dimple Abichandani, executive director of General Service Foundation, was originally published by Stanford Social Innovation Review on February 10, 2020 with the headline: “A ‘Balancing Test’ for Foundation Spending.” One of the most important decisions a foundation makes is how much to spend each year. As distinct from budgetary decisions, spending policies are the invisible architecture shaping… Read More

What the Heck Does “Equity” Mean?

Posted on October 26, 2016 by Kris Putnam-Walkerly

A clear definition of equity would seem paramount to galvanizing philanthropy into action around this increasingly used term—but the field is only beginning to explore what it really means. In this piece, pubslished in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, our content partner Kris Putnam-Walkerly (with the help of co-author Elizabeth Russell) poses some important questions about an infamous philanthropy buzzword… Read More

Putting Grantees at the Center of Philanthropy (GEO and SSIR Blog Series)

Posted on July 28, 2016 by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

Research shows that grantmakers that are more connected to their grantees—those that have an ear to the ground—are more likely to provide the support that nonprofits need to be successful; they are five times as likely to offer capacity-building support and two times as likely to offer multiyear support. We also know that tapping the knowledge and perspective of grantees… Read More

Understanding Rsk Tolerance in Grantmaking

Posted on July 22, 2015 by National Center for Family Philanthropy

Understanding decision-making patterns is the first step toward improving them. We know that despite best efforts to act rationally, human tendencies to avoid risk and loss while seeking certainty and gain can impact sensible decision-making. Research has demonstrated this phenomenon across many facets of our society—including finance, consumer products, and even golf. Given our professional and personal interest in the… Read More

The nonprofit starvation cycle

Posted on October 1, 2009 by Ann Goggins Gregory, Don Howard

A vicious cycle is leaving nonprofits so hungry for general operating support for decent infrastructure that they can barely function as organizations—let alone serve their beneficiaries. The cycle starts with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much running a nonprofit costs, and results in nonprofits’ misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems—acts that feed funders’ skewed beliefs. … Read More