As a part of the staff of CF Insights, I have had the pleasure to work with the community foundation field for almost 4 years now and still I’m amazed at the ways the field as a whole contributes to the success of individual community foundations by sharing insights, data and support. Reflecting on 2012, I have never been prouder to be part of a field that challenges itself to evolve, serve the needs in their communities, and still takes the time to contribute to the growth and development of peers. Here are just a few highlights from 2012:
Community foundations use data to improve their business
CF Insights houses financial and operational metrics on over 500 community foundations nation-wide. I have had the joy of working with over 150 community foundations ranging in $5 Million to $2 Billion in assets helping them think about how they compare to other foundations by providing benchmarking data, connecting them with community foundation colleagues and providing technical assistance on our array of tools. I am always impressed by how nimble my colleagues are and excited to hear about how this data is useful. Last month I spoke with two financial folks at a foundation – one of which was hired because the data we had put together with them made the case to hire a new employee. Now that’s taking action!
Community foundations embrace new knowledge and challenge their current assumptions
One quarter of the field read or heard us talk about Do More Than Grow in September or October. This work takes a deep look at the strategic value of donor advised funds (DAFs). DAFs are a significant part of the community foundation field accounting for over 1/2 of all grantmaking. My colleagues and I have appreciated the thoughtful feedback this piece evoked and look forward to working with the field to help realize the full potential of such a powerful grantmaking vehicle.
Community foundations learn from one another
In partnership with the Council on Foundations and the W.K Kellogg Foundation, CF Insights worked with cohorts of community foundations in New Mexico and Mississippi to help them individually and collectively discuss their role in philanthropy, their unique business models, the myriad of different choices they face.
My aspirations for 2013:
Ten years ago, FSG authored Strengthening Community Foundations: Redefining the Opportunities, which introduced the idea of looking at a community foundation strategy and economics at a product level. Since then, CF Insights and FSG have examined over 80 community foundation business models through Activity Based Costing Analysis. This exercise, which allows foundations to understand key products and activities, has been regarded as “transformational.” A tool like this helps focus conversations about “what revenues fuel our work to promote philanthropy?” to “here are the changes we need to make to align our business model with strategic priorities.”
Over the course of 2013, CF Insights is excited to share with you what we have learned from a wide range of community foundations and provide you with some insights on what is working well. We hope to support more community foundations learning from one another in order to make themselves stronger organizations. Let us know if you’d like to work on this challenge with us - Let’s continue to chart the course together!
Diana Esposito is a member services and program manager for CF Insights. This blog originally appeared on FSG’s Social Impact Blog.