Gaining Perspective From a Decade of Philanthropy at Northwest Area Foundation
By Kevin F. Walker, President and Chief Executive Officer
Northwest Area Foundation
If I were challenged to list the imperatives facing foundations in the years ahead, here’s where I’d start:
• We must take smart risks.
• We must commit for the long haul to the issues at the core of our missions.
• We must engage grantees and communities in relationships of mutual respect.
• We must seek sustainable change for the better, not quick fixes.
• We must learn as we go, adapt as we learn, and share what we find.
The organization I lead, the Northwest Area Foundation, believes in those ideas and tries to live by them for the benefit of our grantees and to increase our effectiveness. Furthermore, as I consider our recent history in the period from 1998 to 2008, it’s clear to me that my predecessors also believed in them, and tried to act on them in innovative ways.
Yet, as you’ll discover in Gaining Perspective: Lessons Learned From One Foundation’s Exploratory Decade, the Foundation’s attempt to execute a strategy animated by these ideas fell short in some very important respects. Specifically, we failed to implement our ideas consistently and effectively. What seemed excellent in theory became very thorny in practice, and we struggled to adapt successfully in response to the lessons reality taught us.
This report by FSG Social Impact Advisors does not evaluate programmatic impact or measure outcomes in communities. Rather, it focuses on our own ideas, processes and practices in order to lift up lessons that we hope will be of use to peer funders and others. It examines one foundation’s experiment with taking bold risks, making large, long-term commitments, and partnering directly with communities – exciting ideas about which we have learned some humbling lessons.
Gaining Perspective: Lessons Learned From One Foundation's Exploratory Decade (PDF 451KB) >>Full Report
Executive Summary (PDF 147KB ) >>more
Listen to a conversation between Kevin Walker and Public Relations Specialist Susan Buckles about the impact of the lessons learned >>more
The Case for Candor Kevin Walker blog post for Council on Foundations >>more
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