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Vice President's Message
Introducing New Learning and Assessment Framework

“Learning” has always been a core organizational value of Weingart Foundation. In March 2014, our Board of Directors approved a new Learning and Assessment Framework designed to comprehensively and systemically understand and assess how the Foundation’s unrestricted grants contribute to strengthening organizational effectiveness. The basis of this framework comes from and aligns with the Foundation’s mission, which is to improve the capacity and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations delivering quality services in the areas of health, human services and education for people of need and communities in need.

We developed our Learning and Assessment Framework with the active participation of our Board of Directors, staff and grantees. From the beginning of this process, we have been committed to creating a system and tools that would benefit both the Foundation and nonprofit organizations. While the new framework includes adjustments to our grantmaking  process, we do not believe these changes represent an undue burden for nonprofits and we did not significantly change our grantmaking approach.

What Will Change for Applicants and Grantees

Starting September 2015 there will be several changes to our Unrestricted Operating Support (formerly known as “Core Support”) application and reporting processes that will be of interest to applicants and grantees:

  • Our Unrestricted Operating Support (UOS) grant application will include three new questions focused on specific areas of organizational effectiveness. These questions will also be discussed during applicant site visits.
     
  • Immediately after a UOS grant has been approved, our program officers will complete an assessment of each grantee that will be used to establish baseline information across nine areas of organizational effectiveness (e.g., "board governance and engagement").
     
  • One-year interim reports will no longer be required of grantees.
     
  • At the close of the UOS grant, grantees will be asked to complete a 45-60 minute online survey in lieu of a final report. The survey will ask grantees to self-assess their organizational effectiveness across the nine areas and report on progress made toward their organizational goals set forth in the original application, including any changes to those goals during the course of the grant.
     
  • Program officers will review the survey and engage grantees in an in-depth conversation via phone to discuss survey responses. After the call, program officers will complete a close-out assessment to capture changes across the nine areas of organizational effectiveness.
     
  • Organizations applying for a second consecutive UOS grant will be able to do so through a streamlined renewal process.

Added Benefit

We believe that this new approach will add value to the Foundation and our grantees in the following ways:

  • Grantees and Foundation staff will reflect on and learn from a full range of topics related to organizational effectiveness, whether directly related to their Weingart Foundation grant or not.
     
  • Grantees and Foundation staff will engage in ongoing conversations about organizational effectiveness — and will glean key information and learning on how best to support it.
     
  • Grantees will be able to access Foundation staff’s knowledge about organizational effectiveness and leadership capacity, including resources and referrals, as appropriate.
     
  • The Foundation will obtain quantitative and qualitative data for each grantee, and will gain the ability to assess and document changes in the grantee’s ability to maintain and strengthen its organizational effectiveness over time.

The insights and information we gain from this framework will be used to improve our practice as a funder, and, we believe, will ultimately benefit grantees and those they serve. In addition, we hope that the ability to better assess and understand the impact of unrestricted funding on supporting organizational effectiveness will also enable us to effectively advocate for more widespread unrestricted funding in philanthropy.

Our Values Moving Forward

As we implement the new Learning and Assessment Framework, the Foundation will continue to hold true to our core values and our responsive grantmaking practices. This means a commitment to transparency and practical, actionable learning. It means ongoing monitoring, learning and continuous improvement of the assessment process itself. It means being careful to not create an undue burden for grantees. And it means trusting our grantees to provide meaningful information about their successes, challenges, and even failures in order for us to learn how to best support them and their critical work.

We welcome your feedback and questions as we begin the implementation process. What are your initial thoughts and reactions to our new framework? As the process unfolds, what is working well, and what can we do better? To send me a comment, please click here.

Learning and Assessment Webinar

On September 15, 2015 the Foundation held a webinar to walk nonprofit organizations through the framework’s goals, processes and tools, as well as answer questions. For a full recording of the webinar, as well as related materials, click here.

 


Belen Vargas
Vice President, Programs