An Exploratory Study of Types of Innovation in US Foundations
2. Literature Review
Sample and Data Collection
4.1. Innovations in the Program Opportunity Space: Innovations in Philanthropic Practice and Strategy Development
We have a very robust mission driven investing, impact investing, and program related investing groups. And they are more and more going into riskier areas with a very firm set of rigor and criteria that comes from the financial industry but looking at innovative ways to shape environments.(Foundation 12)
…we’ve started to actually make more direct investments, so for example, we invest directly in a goat farm that would align with our farm initiative around farm viability, that is one example. That is one thing that we’ve done that is new. The second thing that we’ve done in the last three years that is part of our programming is we have created a new nonprofit reserve fund.(Philanthropic advisor, Foundation 4)
We can accept a written proposal that is either submitted online or as attachment to email, or submitted by hand, dropped off at a library, and we pick them up at the library. The libraries are in the neighborhoods where the project areas are targeted. We permit youth to submit applications that are just like a video, like a self-interview on video or audio.(Foundation 2)
we came in as a national funder at the invitation of the community and they all had to have community funder partners. Part of that is our belief in the community and … what we know of sustainability is going to be linked to community acceptance, ownership, and saying—this is ours”.(Policy director, Foundation 12)
Because there has been such an emphasis on results-based accountability and also on another thinking piece known as collective impact theory, we’ve been … trying to push that out the door a fair amount for training for grantees, co-sponsoring conferences each year, selective impact and resource based accountability training.(Philanthropic advisor, Foundation 4)
Sometimes we fund the initiatives. Sometimes we fund centers who fund collaboration. … We’re working with the … federal reserve bank to bring state resources and philanthropic resources to basically an economic development competition that happens in cities in each state. So, we’re funding tables/collaboratives for problem solving. We’re creating them ourselves in some places, and then we fund a lot of national convening.(Program officer, Foundation 11)
Sometimes it’s about infrastructure investments that you hope will influence other stuff. We fund grantees who try and influence policy by issuing issue papers, by convening people, by sharing effective practice and asking for it to be scaled and taken up by several programs.(Program officer, Foundation 11)
4.2. Innovations in Structural, Financial, and Administrative Opportunity Space
We are in the process of making our first program-related investment, so we already do social responsible investing and have some screens in place for assets. But what we’re currently contemplating is actually taking some assets out of our bonds funds and giving it as a loan to a nonprofit and having them pay us back at about 2–3% interest that would be negotiated.(Program officer, Foundation 1)
our talent management team has adopted a new way of interviewing, where the top candidates are coming in person first … also providing the opportunity to write answered responses to qualifications even to the degree of introvert vs extrovert accommodations in applications”.(Foundation fellow, Foundation 6)
5. Discussion and Implications
Conflicts of Interest
Appendix A. An Interview Guide
- In the last three years, have you implemented new models of practice? (practices beyond traditional grantmaking)
- In the last three years, have you introduced new ways of soliciting grant proposals?
- In the last three years, have you introduced innovations in the grant application process?
- In the last three years, have you introduced innovations in the selection process and/or strategies for reviewing potential grantees?
- In the last three years, have you introduced innovations in how grant applications are handled and processed?
- In the last three years, have you introduced new approaches to making grant decisions?
- In the last three years, have you implemented innovations in fostering and facilitating collaboration among diverse stakeholders (foundations, grantees, communities, donors, policy makers)?
- In the last three years, have you implemented innovations in brokering relationships?
- In the last three years have you introduced new ways of leveraging your resources with a goal of multiplying the impact of your foundation’s work?
- In the last three years, have you introduced new ways of influencing public policy and corporate behavior?
- In the last three years, have you introduced new ways of evaluating the foundation’s progress?
- In the last three years, have you introduced new ways of sharing the knowledge and information that is of great value to other organizations?
- In the last three years, have you introduced a new approach to staffing (hiring practices, performance evaluation practices, etc.)?
- In the last three years, have you introduced new board governance practices?
- In the last three years, have you made any changes in your foundation’s structure (legal structure, the design of internal and external networks, etc.)?
- In the last three years, have you introduced new financial systems, new approaches to managing your endowments, or new approaches to managing your financial assets?
- In the last three years, have you introduced new technologies to communicate or connect with your stakeholders?
- In the last three years, have you introduced innovations in your foundation’s communications and marketing?
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|Foundation Name||Funding Strategy||Age||No. of Employees||Foundation Type|
|Concept/Idea||Concept/Idea Development||Concept/Idea Implementation||Concept/Idea Scaling|
|Thomas B. Scattergood||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||11||6 FT *||Health conversion|
|The Sprout Fund||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||15||9FT 1PT **||501c (3)|
|The Rockefeller Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||103||155 FT||Institutional philanthropy|
|Vermont Community Foundation||No||Yes||Yes||No||30||25 FT||Community|
|The Forbes Fund||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||33||8FT 5PT||A supporting organization|
|The Bush Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||64||43 FT||Private|
|The Knight Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||67||70 FT||Private|
|California Health Care Foundation||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||20||48FT 1PT||501c (4)|
|The American Society of Association Executives Foundation (ASAE)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||53||15 FT||Private|
|A. E. Casey Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||69||200 FT||Private|
|Kresge Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||93||93 FT 2 PT||Private|
|Kellogg Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||86||217 FT 2 PT||Private|
|McKnight Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||50||45 FT 3 PT||Private|
|Gordon and Betsy Moore Foundation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||17||105 FT||Conversion|
|The California Endowment||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||21||150 FT||Private|
|Te Lodestar Foundation||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||19||1 FT 1 PT||Private|
|Innovation Spaces||Number of Foundations|
|Innovations in Philanthropic Practice|
|Implemented new models of practice beyond traditional grantmaking||16|
|Introduced innovations in the grant application process||14|
|Introduced new ways of soliciting grant proposals||11|
|Introduced new ideas for the selection process||8|
|Introduced innovations in how the grant applications are handled and processed||8|
|Introduced new approaches to grant decisions||7|
|Innovations in Strategy Development|
|Introduced new ways of leveraging resources with a goal of multiplying the impact of the foundation’s work||17|
|Introduced innovations in fostering and facilitating collaboration among diverse stakeholders||15|
|Implemented innovations in brokering relationships||14|
|Introduced new ways of influencing public policy and corporate behavior||14|
|Introduced new ways of sharing the knowledge and information that is of great value to other organizations||14|
|Introduced new ways of evaluating the foundation’s work/impact||10|
|Structural, Financial, and Administrative Opportunities|
|Introduced new financial systems, new approaches to managing endowments, or new approaches to managing financial assets||14|
|Introduced new technologies to communicate or connect with stakeholders||12|
|Introduced a new approach to staffing (hiring practices, performance evaluation, etc.)||11|
|Introduced innovation in the foundation’s communications and marketing||11|
|Made changes in the foundation’s structure (legal structure, design of internal/external networks, etc.)||6|
|Introduced new board governance practices||4|
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Jaskyte Bahr, K. An Exploratory Study of Types of Innovation in US Foundations. Adm. Sci. 2019, 9, 93. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci9040093
Jaskyte Bahr K. An Exploratory Study of Types of Innovation in US Foundations. Administrative Sciences. 2019; 9(4):93. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci9040093Chicago/Turabian Style
Jaskyte Bahr, Kristina. 2019. "An Exploratory Study of Types of Innovation in US Foundations" Administrative Sciences 9, no. 4: 93. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci9040093