Foundations are much more than check-writers and cash machines. Through their scanning, strategy-setting, and evaluation work, funders-along with their consultants, grantees, and evaluators- are a primary source of ideas about a field.
IssueLab, a service of Foundation Center, has put together shareable collections of reports, evaluations and case studies: Foundation Ideas. These resources give you access to knowledge from existing research and investigation. Likewise, they provide a space for free and public collection of social sector knowledge, whilst allowing you to archive what your organisation has funded or created.
Foundation Ideas are organised into three groups:
Knowledge Synthesis: synthesize findings, analysis and lessons learned from and about your field of interest.
- Sustainable Fisheries: covers the topic of fisheries management through a collection of reports and presentations. The reports reflect the challenges faced by small-scale fisheries worldwide and what can be done to improve their livelihoods in threatened environments. The site has 174 resources available, including documented reviews, reports, research exercises, and evaluations. It also includes a data visualisation tool, showcasing different stakeholder perspectives on macro, meso and micro levels.
Special Collections: curate evidence and insights about specific issues or fields of practice. You can find a comprehensive project list through their website. Here are some that stand out:
- Affordable Care Act: With over 180 resources including reports and national studies, this collection attempts to shed light on the expected impact on citizens and providers of the Affordable Care Act. It also examines the cost, quality, and access of care.
- Annual Reports: This collection has over a thousand annual reports from various organisations from the third sector. Annual reports are often seen as promotional materials aimed at getting more funding. However, as a compilation they reflect the trends in grant making and service delivery, as well as how organisations present themselves in reaction to the funding environments they are experiencing.
- Funding Capacity: Here you will find 60 resources exploring topics that include approaches to field-building, working with technical assistance providers and consultants, and assessing the impact of capacity building initiatives.
- Gun Violence: A topic that is very much in the debate at the moment, this collection is composed of over 100 documents that bring together evidence and insights from nonprofits, foundations and research organisations. They analyse current state and federal laws, as well as provide data on homicides, mass shootings, amongst others.
- Immigration Strategies: Another popular topic in the debate, this collection has over 60 resources available that analyse the position of organisations worldwide in terms of immigration services and policies. The compilation is comprised of evaluations, case studies and lessons learned documents.
- Public Education Network (PEN): After the closure of PEN in 2012, their collection of 200 written works on a variety of issues and policies pertaining to education in the United States continues to be shared through this platform.
Knowledge Centers: spotlight your organisation’s knowledge or the findings and analyses of your grantees or membership. You can find a comprehensive project list here. Below are some examples that stand out:
- Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE): Focuses on resources that document the evolution of black male initiatives in philanthropy, highlighting data of particular interests to members and colleagues throughout its networks. It has over 5,000 resources available, along with a newsroom where they showcase the latest news on the subject matters they engage in.
- European Citizen Action Service: This knowledge center holds resources on two broad themes: EU Rights and Civic Engagement in Europe. The site gives access to over 400 resources in the forms of research, case studies, evaluations, papers, issue briefs, and tool kits on two main topics under their theme umbrellas, with the goal of expanding these topics in the future.
- Heartland Alliance: The Heartland Alliance Policy & Advocacy team advocates for policies to help end poverty. To this end, they offer 271 resources on eight issues including asset building, housing, and poverty. Their resources include publications, fact sheets, infographics and tool kits. You can also explore the resources by specific policy issues.
- Media Impact Funders: On their homepage, you can immediately access the knowledge center and choose to explore it by map and charts, or by research reports. The map shows you where media grants are going by state, giving you an overview and the option to navigate into a detailed list of grantees, number of grants and total amount of grants in U.S. dollars. The charts are pretty neat as well, with detailed charts and graphs of funding allocation. It has great filter options, so you can refine the results by TV, radio, web-based media, film/video, etc. The research reports section has over 150 resources from a range of organisations.
- National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers: This collection has 226 resources available for and about grantmaking. According to their own description, their knowledge center offers ideas, research and helpful information about almost every aspect of philanthropy. Each of the items has detailed information on the publication, and includes a very helpful summary on what the piece is about. It has a very straightforward search tool, with the option to search by keyword, issue area, author or organization.
- In the same style are the knowledge centers of the New York Foundation, and the Social Impact Research Center with a straightforward presentation of resources, including full information on each publication and a great summary of each as well. The resources date from back in 2001 and 1996, respectively.
The IssueLab also has the option of searching for reports with a set of filters including coverage, issue area, document type and publication date. This is a really useful search tool if you are looking for specific resources on a topic (as a test, I selected “religion” and “factsheet” and got six very relevant resources from varying organisations).