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Governance as Part of a Foundation’s Impact Equation


In previous blog posts, harp-weaver LLC shared how foundations can be impactful and how conducting evaluations can contribute to a better understanding of impact. In this post, we look at the role of governance and how it contributes to impact.

 

As illustrated by the image below, the governance of a foundation is intricately tied to the impact that it desires to achieve.

 


Effective governance, according to the National Center for Family Philanthropy, starts by building out/relying on the 4 P’s – people (and how organizations use their people power), principles (how values are put into action), policies (the rules, guidelines, and parameters for using principles to tackle common issues), and practices (the procedures that fulfill the objectives stated in your policies). Having a framework to guide boards and staff on these four points helps develop their ability to fulfill their mission and make an impact.

 

However, the governance of a family foundation is more than just the policies and procedures; it also includes certain qualities that a board can work toward to increase impact. Exponent Philanthropy outlines multiple qualities needed to help build a strong board, leading to more effective governance and increased capacity for meaningful work. 

 

  • Strong, trusting relationships among board members

  • Passion and connection to an issue and the community; a feeling of ownership and responsibility

  • Inquisitiveness and a culture of constant learning, informed by listening and direct engagement with grantees and community members

  • Vision and ambition; the desire to set sights higher and catalyze transformation, rather than accept the status quo

  • A sense of common purpose where every board member identifies with the foundation’s vision and goals, and commits to them

 

In addition, Exponent Philanthropy observed that foundations are able to achieve impact beyond the size of their assets through leveraging non-dollar assets, such as a deep knowledge of their communities, and building relationships with local leaders and convening power.

 

With its personalized relationship with each of its foundation clients, harp-weaver has a long history of working in collaboration with boards by connecting with them, understanding their mission and goals, and assessing whether or not the board and grantee share the same mission and values. We work closely with each foundation’s board and their grantees, both jointly and in separate spaces, to review and implement new frameworks that  align with intended impact. We are partners on each client’s journey to ensure that they are making the impact they envision having. Whether it’s through providing effective administration and management in building out and maintaining the foundation’s principles, policies, and parameters, or it is helping boards strengthen the qualities highlighted by Exponent Philanthropy and connect with the communities they’re serving, harp-weaver is there to provide the support and advice to boards to strengthen and grow their impact.

 

Governance plays an important role in furthering a foundation’s impact. In this blog post, we’ve touched on some of the many layers that can drive a board toward effective governance and greater impact. If you’d like to learn more about foundation governance and impact, we encourage you to check out the linked resources from Exponent Philanthropy and National Center for Family Philanthropy.

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