Future of Philanthropy

WINGS is really at the right place at the right time. The momentum building in philanthropy for investing in high-performing nonprofits with measurable results favors the impactful organization and model that WINGS has built up over 13 years in the field.

Philanthropy evolving toward more investment
in high performers

There’s an important conversation happening at a national level among philanthropy leaders about a better way to identify nonprofits that are effective and impactful so donors can invest in those high-performing organizations.

WINGS gathered some influential community leaders in Charleston to join the conversation on Sept. 29 by hearing from David Hunter, a co-founder of the Alliance for Effective Social Investing, and exchanging views. The conversation continues on the WINGS Blog, Facebook and Twitter forums and elsewhere.

What’s at issue is getting more bang for the buck. There’s considerable concern that funders who invest in nonprofits who have no evidence that their efforts are improving the lives of the people they serve should instead be driving more funding to high-performing nonprofits that are having measurable impact. Instead of funding programs, many argue that more resources should be devoted to capacity-building because the best programs and ideas cannot succeed unless there’s a strong organization implementing then.

The economic woes of the last year have constricted and closed the operations of some nonprofits just at the time when people’s need for services has dramatically increased. Yet the infrastructure of nonprofit organizations has been neglected for years because many donors restrict their grants to specific programs for limited periods – leaving scant resources for the infrastructure that constitutes a strong organization.

David Hunter, who was involved in the investment of more than $100 million with the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, argued that not enough funders ask: “What’s the evidence that my donation actually makes a difference to the people served by this nonprofit?

He offered 5 ways that funders can make the world a better place:

1. Invest in organizations not programs

The best programs and ideas cannot succeed unless there's a strong organization implementing them. Make larger grants with fewer restrictions on how to use them and strengthen capacity of effective organizations to deliver results.

2. Be modest and honest

You force nonprofits to lie to you! Grants of $5,000 don't solve the root causes of poverty - but some funders insist that hteir grantees assert that they will. Stop making inflated promises of what your investment scan achieve.

3. Insist that nonprofits track outcomes

What's the evidence your funds are making a measurable improvement in people's lives?Don't ask if it costs too much to track outcomes. Instead ask: "Should you exist if you don't track outcomes?" It's not socially responsible otherwise.

4. Drive down transaction costs

There's meaningful accountability and then there's micromanaging. Too much of the reporting required by funders is excessive and time-consuming.

5. Spread the word

Advocacy is a powerful and under-utilized tool. Communicate with other funders about high-performing organizations you support and multiply their/your impact. 

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