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Foundation Center

Recent Posts by Foundation Center:



At three recent philanthropy gatherings*, I’ve heard open discussions of failure in grantmaking strategy and execution. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” but I’m heartened by this mini-trend.


The Paradox of Direct Mail


Direct mail has become a polarizing topic in the nonprofit fundraising world. Many bloggers and development veterans feel that it's one of the most important tools in the fundraising toolbox. Others – many of them focused on targeting a younger demographic – want to change or do away with the practice altogether.

For what it's worth, approximately 90 percent of the direct mail I receive winds up in the recycling bin, unopened and barely glanced at.

And I'm not alone. For many new and younger donors, direct mail is viewed as intrusive, messy, and a waste of resources. So why do so many organizations continue to embrace it? The answer is simple: It works.

Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Play a Leading Role?

Derrick Feldmann

Streamline Your Marketing With Mindful Business Strategies

A mindful social business strategy centers around a thoughtful focus on the needs of the market rather than the "spray and pray" approach we are all so used to seeing in "traditional" marketing. More and more, people, online and off, expect us to know what they want. If we don't, they look for someone who does. Still, many marketers continue to think of a "target market" as one or two large units and create everything directed outward to a broad spectrum of needs.

To Increase Your Organization’s Impact, Work With People Who Reflect Your Values

As consumers, we constantly make purchasing decisions that express our values. A consumer seeking to live a healthy lifestyle might buy organic produce; a consumer conscious of her carbon footprint might purchase a Prius.

A Framework to Communicate Philanthropy

Language is a system that allows us to communicate ideas using an agreed structure and process. Variations in languages around the globe increase the level of effort needed to communicate with people across borders, but it's not impossible if you have a way to translate your ideas into a language others can understand. The Foundation Center is currently undertaking the challenge of devising a language that can be used by philanthropic organizations around the world to tell the important story of their work. That common language is crucial for a field as diverse as ours: not too long ago we determined that U.S. foundations have over 250 ways to describe "general operating support," varying from "core support" to "general operations advancement."

In 2012, the Foundation Center began to rethink the classification system that has been at the core of our work, a system largely based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities structure that we helped create 30 years ago. Given how much the sector has grown and evolved over the past few decades, updates to the taxonomy are critical in order for it to more accurately reflect the work of the field and serve as a more relevant tool for a 21st-century global philanthropy community. Why is this important? That language—that communication—enables grantseekers to find targeted support, helps funders collaborate with each other and identify potential grantees, and assists researchers and academics who are analyzing the work of the sector.

Staff at the Foundation Center have spent 18 months evaluating our codes, mining the text of the nearly 5 million grants and 1 million philanthropic institutions in our database, and cross-referencing that information against other international standards to inform the creation of a revised taxonomic system. Our goal is not to create another standard but to develop a framework that meets the needs of the majority of the sector and can serve as the language that organizations use to communicate their work to each other with set terms and definitions. For example, we have added new subject areas related to information and media, including associated technologies. We have replaced "type of support" with two new categories: support strategy, to reflect the goal or approach behind the support, and transaction type to capture the various forms of philanthropy that happen around the world beyond the U.S. tradition of a cash grant.

As with the language you use in your day-to-day life, we expect that people will use the words and phrases of this taxonomy that resonate with them. Has anyone ever uttered every single word currently available in the English language? Of course not, and the classification system is intended to be used in the same way: use the words that help you communicate your work, and the rest are available to help you understand the work being done by others. We want to make sure the parts of the taxonomy that are relevant to you make sense. That's why we've opened up the draft of this newly proposed system for review and comment through May 23, 2014.

Your input is essential, and we invite you and your colleagues to take part in this process. Check out the draft taxonomy and submit your feedback on both the overall structure and specific terms. What do you like? What's missing? We want to know. Together, we can create a system that provides a common language we can all use to communicate our work to each other.

Jeannine Corey, Foundation Center
© 2014, Foundation Center

Jeannine Corey is the director of grants information management at the Foundation Center. When she's not hard at work improving data about philanthropy, you can find her playing roller derby or spending time with her two sons.