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Community Foundations: Building Knowledge to Facilitate Successful Organizational Impact, Part 2

This blog is the second in a series of conversations with executives from leading community foundations who are stepping out of their traditional, risk-averse roles and stepping up to affect positive social change by increasing the dollars and impact of effective philanthropy in their communities. To read Part 1, click here. Watch your email for an invitation to join us for an interactive GuideStar webinar with these community foundation leaders!

Below is Part II of a conversation between Lori Larson, Senior Director Community Philanthropy, GuideStar, and Christina Ciociola, Senior Vice President for Grantmaking & Strategy, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. (Click here if you missed Part I.)

The Change Process, Current State, and Achievements:

Lori: What were the most effective processes, tactics, financial investments, etc. in achieving your strategic goals?

Christina: We instituted several activities and products since we decided to be more deliberate and strategic about our community knowledge work. In addition to, we:

Launched our new community foundation website that is community knowledge focused. We hired a former journalist and we publish issue briefs about community issues on our website on a regular basis. We also publish grantee stories on a weekly basis.

Partnered with DataHaven to publish larger community wide reports including:

Host a series of donor briefings throughout the year on issues affecting the community. Most recently we hosted a donor briefing on mass incarceration and reentry as well as a donor briefing on immigration integration.

Host a series of larger public convenings. Most recently in partnership with Long Wharf Theatre, we hosted a convening on Violence in our Community: Towards Understanding and Empathy.

Created an internal Grant Impact Report that is presented to our Board of Directors on an annual basis

Create customized Donor Advised Fund Impact Reports that summarizes individual donor advisors grantmaking by issue area and provides links to information on topics of interest to the donor according to their giving patterns.

Created a Nonprofit Management Resource Center

Host a series of Community Breakfasts for donors to come and learn about The Community Foundation.

Lori: What goals and aspirations do you have for the immediate 3-5 year future?

Christina: We continue to look for ways to strengthen and promote our nongrantmaking roles in the community and also continue to learn about ways we can evaluate the impact of our nongrantmaking activities. We continue to be challenged by how to balance our need to be responsive to the needs in the community with our desire to be more strategic and have greater impact on certain issues. We recently launched three strategic priorities: Capitalization of the Arts; Incarceration and Reentry; and Immigration Integration. All three of these strategies include some grantmaking but also nongrantmaking activities like research and report dissemination, convening the community around these issues, public education, capacity building, and leadership development. The intention is for these community priorities to be long term strategies of The Foundation. We will report back in 3 to 5 years on what we have learned.

Lori Larson

Lori Larson is senior director of community philanthropy and responsible for GuideStar’s market and product strategy, business development and customer relations for community philanthropy products. Prior to joining GuideStar, Lori worked for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, leading teams including knowledge development, nonprofit outreach, and donor relations. Previous to her foundation work, Lori was the operations manager of a multi-entity oil and gas corporation in Houston, Texas, and was assistant publisher of a software company in Shreveport, Louisiana. Lori holds a B.A. in Economics, With Distinction, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and an MBA in Finance from Baker College Center for Graduate Studies. Lori holds a Ph.D. (ABD) in Leadership and Organizational Change from Walden University. Her dissertation, “Adaptive Business Models for Community Foundation Resilience,” is in progress with anticipated full doctorate graduation in 2015. You may reach Lori directly at

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice