What We Do

We Help Foundations, Nonprofits and Other Organizations Get From Point A to Point B.

Our mission is helping you succeed. We do that by listening, understanding your hopes and concerns, and working with you to meet your goals.  You’ll be assisted by our senior members, gaining full access to their expertise.

Our real-world experience informs your deliberations and decisions – from planning to organizational development, building and managing initiatives and special projects, to strengthening the impact of your grantmaking.

We also bring you on-the-ground working knowledge of the important issues you care about – education grantmaking (early childhood, K-12 & higher education), civic affairs, human services, homelessness, community and economic development, youth, arts education, environment, nonprofit management and organizational leadership.

Charting Your Course: Planning, Board and Staff Development & Retreats, Facilitation

All organizations evolve and change.   Whether yours is established or just getting up and running, it’s important to chart out a clear course. We’ll work with you to identify your goals, how you’ll meet them, and how you’ll know you’re making the progress you envision. From our broad experience, we know there may be diverse opinions and perspectives among your board, staff and partners about the path ahead.  We’ll work with you and your stakeholders to form a consensus. Our planning, development and facilitation efforts have taken a number of approaches for foundations and others:

  •  A family foundation board representing two generations and several geographic focus areas sought to revisit and fine-tune how it organized itself. We designed and facilitated a three-day board retreat that delved into the foundation’s future, operations and family dynamics, and we developed a clear path for the next steps.
  • A family foundation board asked us to help address a set of governance and management issues. We worked with a board committee and staff to create an action plan that the foundation has followed to tackle each issue and increaseengagement of board members.
  • We guided a private foundation through discussions with board and family members to develop a strategy for spending-down the foundation – and built consensus on how to implement this plan.
  • A new growth phase for a comprehensive youth development organization presented a long list of future opportunities and challenges.  We worked with them on a three-year blueprint for organizational development, positive public image and financial solvency that they have followed to continue growing and succeeding.

Ramping Up: Building Effective Programs and Initiatives

Creating a more focused approach to your grantmaking will enhance your foundation’s impact on the issues and places that matter to you. We have on-the-ground experience in creating and managing grantmaking programs and foundation initiatives that get results. We have assisted large and small foundations alike in shaping targeted funding strategies and tools:

  • We helped the staff of a large foundation design and launch a multi-state request-for-proposals (RFP) to strengthen early childhood education, the foundation’s first use of this powerful grantmaking tool.
  • We facilitated board and staff discussions to help shape a family foundation’s new strategic initiative. We also helped organize a “learning retreat” featuring national education leaders to inform family and board members on key issues and trends.
  • We have designed, launched and managed numerous initiatives for private and family foundations, typically engaging other funding and community partners to strengthen the depth and reach of the initiatives. These have included efforts to build civic and nonprofit leadership and engagement, increase the number of college-bound youth, and strengthen economic competitiveness.
  • A national funder was considering how best to make statewide investments to drive more significant improvement in school reform. We conducted interviews with experts, policymakers and educators, and developed recommendations to put a spotlight on opportunities and challenges that informed this grantmaker’s strategy-building.

Evaluation: Answering The Question - Are We Making A Difference?


Are we making a difference?  We often hear this question from foundation board and staff members, as well as from the organizations they support. We’ll first help you explore what you want to learn about the results of your philanthropic efforts.  Then we’ll design and conduct an evaluation to deliver that information.  We can also help you use the evaluation to strengthen your grantmaking and programs and enhance the impact of your dollars.Here are a few examples of how we have assisted foundations strengthen their work through evaluation:

  • After several years of significant investment, a funder wanted to better understand how its signature initiative was performing in building the skills of youth development staff in nonprofit organizations. We interviewed dozens of program participants and their employers, conducted focus groups of key stakeholders, brought learning from youth development research, and synthesized voluminous data into consumable “chunks.” Our evaluation provided insights on the impact of this initiative, resulting in a restructuring of the effort to improve the desired outcomes.
  • We helped a small family foundation understand what their grantees were learning through efforts funded by the foundation.  We also collected feedback from these grantees about the foundation’s grantmaking process.
  • A community foundation received a two-year grant from a national funder to run a comprehensive initiative in low-income urban neighborhoods.  We evaluated the impact of the initiative on participating individuals, organizations and networks.
  • The board of directors of a large educational foundation wanted to know how their funding strategy was working. We designed and implemented a multi-faceted evaluation highlighting the impact and identifying opportunities to expand this approach.

Strengthening Your Grantmaking


Grantmaking is the heart of your foundation’s mission to help people, create change and make the world a better place.   We’ll work with you to outline your goals and identify the best grantmaking tools, techniques and processes to meet them.
With an eye toward the effective use of resources, we’ll also help you streamline your grantmaking operation so that you and your grant recipients can make the best use of your time and energy.
These are some examples of how we customize our efforts to help you fulfill your grantmaking strategies and objectives:

  • An emerging statewide foundation was wrestling with a quickly expanding grants docket.  We helped by evaluating grant requests, meeting with agencies, and writing funding recommendations.
  • We helped several small and medium-sized funders streamline their grantmaking processes.  We listened to feedback from grant recipients and improved efficiencies so nonprofits and funders could spend more time and resources on meeting their objectives and less time on paperwork.
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