During the Council on Foundations conference I wrote about a session called “Linking Money to Mission: Structuring Your Grants to Promote Grantee Performance” featuring Clara Miller of Nonprofit Finance Fund and Nancy Roob president of The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF). I just received copies of the presentation from both speakers and want to share some additional thoughts.
At the end of her presentation, Clara gave a list of “Enterprise Friendly Funding Principals”. Here they are:
- Make the program decision first…[full stop]…then structure the money
- Ignore overhead rate and fundraising cost in favor of good metrics
- Builder or buyer? Not every organization can and should grow
- Have a scalable grantee? Become a good builder: keep it simple, look at the whole enterprise, and join others
You can find a complete discussion of the “builder or buyer” language here.
Nancy Roob’s presentation focused on EMCF’s efforts to help scalable organizations grow with quality. The example she used was Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). In explaining the effectiveness of NFP, Roob certainly did not cite overhead rate or fund raising cost. Instead, she shared these statistics:
- Child abuse and neglect: Down 48%
- Arrests of previously home visited children: Down 59%
- Children with behavioral troubles: Down 90%
- Arrests of mothers after visits: Down 61%
- Months mothers stay on welfare: Down 30%
EMCF isn’t the only group to notice the measurable impact of NFP. If you’re interested you can The Colorado Trust’s publication "Invest in Results. The Story of The Colorado Trust’s Nurse-Family Partnership & Invest in Kids Initiative" and the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy randomized controlled trial showing a major impact on life outcomes of the mothers and their children.
In her presentation, Nancy said that one of the major questions that EMCF is trying to answer right now is how they can work more effectively with other funders. From what I know of EMCF, it seems that they have an excellent program in place and are practicing a very effective form of philanthropy. I’m sure that the evidence they are building will do a lot to convince other big foundations to join them in supporting effective, scalable organizations. But imagine the leverage they could employ if they managed to tell the story of their grantees to the public at large (which gives at an annual rate of over 7 times the level of foundations). That is the promise of things like Project-Agape. With leaders like EMCF providing data and the qualitative story of high impact nonprofits, a well-developed social networking site could channel massive philanthropic dollars to good causes.