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Reflections on the role of foundations. Will Miller President, The Wallace Foundation Efficient Investment for Urban Education and Economic Revival The Ford Foundation January 30, 2013. Foundations in America. Growing rapidly 1987: 25,000 2010: 70,000 Giving away substantial sums

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Reflections on the role of foundations

Reflections on the role of foundations

Will Miller

President, The Wallace Foundation

Efficient Investment for

Urban Education and Economic Revival

The Ford Foundation

January 30, 2013

Foundations in america
Foundations in America

  • Growing rapidly

    • 1987: 25,000

    • 2010: 70,000

  • Giving away substantial sums

    • $47 billion annually

  • Small in the grand scheme of things

    • $5 billion to K-12 public education

    • Only 1% of $536 billion in public spending on K-12 (2004)

The functions of philanthropy
The functions of philanthropy

Source: Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy, Peter Frumkin, University of Chicago Press, 2006

  • Public functions

    • Create social and political change

    • Locate and support important social innovations

    • Improve economic equity

    • Pluralism as a civic value

  • Private functions

    • Self-actualization of donors

Social risk capital
Social risk capital

-- Helmut K. Anheier and Diana Leat,

Creative Philanthropy

  • “Free of market and political constraints, [foundations] are uniquely able, if they choose, to think the unthinkable, ignoring disciplinary and professional boundaries. They can take risks, consider approaches others say can’t possibly work – and they can fail with no terminal consequences.”

Value creation by foundations
Value creation by foundations

Source: Philanthropy’s New Agenda: Creating Value, Michael Porter & Mark Kramer, 1999, Harvard Business Review

Selection: Carefully selecting grantees who can most effectively use scarce resources

Signaling: Signaling to other funders that an activity or organization is important

Improving effectiveness: Improving the overall effectiveness of grant recipients, thus improving the social return on all the money they spend

Advancing knowledge: Advancing the state of knowledge and practice by learning from the  work of the grantees, filling knowledge gaps in fields, and helping to set agendas

The wallace approach our theory of change
The Wallace Approach(Our theory of change)

Understand the Context

(Engage with the external environment to identify knowledge gaps, field interest, and time lines)

Catalyze Broad Impact

(Improve practice and policy nationwide)

Generate Improvements and Insights

(Build promising new approaches and new evidence/knowledge)


  • Both achievement and opportunity gaps persists

    • Affluent parents increased spending on enrichment activities for their children 9x more than low income parents form 1960 to today

  • We lag in some international comparisons

    • High school graduation: 22nd of 27 OECD countries

    • Odds of children of less-educated children going to college: 26th of 28 OECD countries

More kids are succeeding, but the achievement gap in math is widening

A job too big for one institution
A job too big for one institution

  • Problems complex – few silver bullets

  • Taking action rarely the province of a single sector

  • Especially true in a time of strained fiscal resources

Partnerships are not easy
Partnerships are not easy

FrancieOstrower, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2011

  • Problems can stem from:

    • Insufficient resources

    • Activities tangential to mission

    • Tension between partners

A collective impact model
A collective impact model

Adapted from: Collective Impact, John Kania and Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011

Collective impact columbus in
Collective impact: Columbus, IN

Shared agenda: Ensure youth have training to get jobs

Team: Community Education Coalition

Metrics: Move focus at community college from enrollment to relevance of coursework and graduation

Trust: Weak at first, built by working on the facility needs of the institutions

Persistence: Columbus Learning Center opened in 2005