Investing in Social Change: The Practice of Philanthropy

March 18, 2010

Philanthropy – “giving away money” – sounds attractive and simple. But the very acts of contributing and receiving resources affect dynamics and relationships among all involved, and philanthropic strategies often require trade-offs between competing goals. It’s a field that is hard to do it well, if one is truly interested in addressing complex social issues and facilitating significant and sustainable impact.

The serious philanthropist must think and work strategically —building a deep understanding of the specific social issues of interest and community context and dynamics, identifying the highest potential leverage points and relevant resources, building relationships with a range of stakeholders, negotiating the intersections between donor interests and community need, balancing innovation and experience, understanding legal issues, creating a robust investment strategy with clear goals and aligned actions, considering long-term exit strategies, designing and implementing impact evaluations, assessing potential partner organizations and plans, and monitoring and supporting grantee organizations.

This course will engage students in the conceptual frameworks and research regarding philanthropy, social change, and organizational dynamics; as well as concrete practice in designing and implementing a philanthropic strategy. Students will work in teams to investigate a particular community concern, design an investment strategy, recommend the investment of grant dollars, and set up the means to evaluate the outcomes of that investment.

Course Goals

  • Engage in the sociological, social, cultural/moral, organizational, political, strategic, and other dynamics of social change and philanthropy.
  • Build students’ understanding of how to engage with a local community, including cultural context and diversity, community-defined needs, relationships, and capacity.
  • Deepen students’ understanding of a particular content area and its expression in the community (e.g., education, health care, poverty, etc.).
  • Develop skills in designing, implementing, and articulating strategies and initiatives and measuring the impact of those strategies; and practice the basic tools and processes of philanthropy.
  • Further students’ ability to synthesize theory and practice, and integrate academic knowledge and community experience.


Course Requirements/ Criteria for Success

  • Class attendance, participation, and leadership
  • Full engagement in and contribution to one of two issue teams
  • Full participation in community visits as scheduled
  • Integration of content from readings into class discussion and assignments
  • Rigorous completion of assignments listed below


Assignments and grading

Your course grade will be determined through the following items, with relative weighting as shown.

Individual work

  • Class presentation and participation (15%). At least once during the semester, you will be asked to open the class with a 10 min. analysis of the reading assignment and its relevance to the work of the class.
  • Individual paper on impact of $10,000 in funding (10%).
  • Final individual reflective essay (10%): three page paper showing evidence of learning from the course, taking one of the following forms:
    • Reflection on the assumptions you brought into the class—how did your thinking change as a result of the readings, discussion, and grant work?
    • Reflection back on the RFP that was developed—what worked, what you would do differently
    • Examine what you have learned about philanthropy from the standpoint of nonprofit community-based agencies. What new insights have you gained from the class? What pros and cons can you identify to seeking money from foundations?

Team work

  • Best practices presentation (5%)
  • Team paper (20%): synthesizing the research base on the social issue the team is investigating and its context in Providence—how is the issue being addressed and by whom, and what are the gaps in terms of programs, policies, etc. You might think of this as a briefing paper on the issue, which would frame the strategy your team will take (approx. 10 pages).
  • • Team-based grant strategy (40%):
    • logic model—description of goals to be addressed, research base informing the strategy components, specific types of actions to be funded, intermediate outcomes, and long-term outcomes;
    • “request for proposals,” with structure and content modeled on best practices identified by the team;
    • list of organizations to be invited to apply, or plan to communicate funding opportunity;
    • evaluation plan to measure impact of grants to be made;
    • “board” presentations at mid-semester and end of semester;
    • “diarist” role reflecting on the work of your team.

Required Texts

  • Fleishman, Joel L. The Foundation: A Great American Secret. New York: Public Affairs, 2007.
  • Frumkin, Peter. Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • Healy, Kieran. Last Best Gifts: Altruism and the Market for Human Blood and Organs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
  • King, Samantha. Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006
  • Other readings as assigned.

Note: Specific class schedule may subject to change based on guest speaker availability.

Overview of philanthropy, strategy, and local context

Thurs., Sept. 10 – First class meeting

Lecture/discussion: Course overview and expectations; History and landscape of philanthropy

Tues., Sept. 15
Lecture/discussion: Philanthropic strategy development and logic models

• The Foundation, chapters 1-6
• Strategic Giving, chapter 6 (Logic Models)
• Bernholz, Lucy. “Flying Over Philanthropy,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, January 8, 2008. (LINK/OCRA)
• Foundation Center. “Foundation Giving Trends,” (LINK/OCRA)

Assignment: Group best practices assignment: look at foundation guidelines, RFPs, principles, and compare across the range of philanthropic types – private, family, community, large corporate, government, social entrepreneur/”new philanthropy.” Each group will present their findings at the next meeting (5-7 mins. each).

Thurs., Sept. 17
Lecture/discussion: Discussion of foundation best practices


  • The Foundation, chapters 10-11
  • Porter, Michael E. and Mark R. Kramer, “Philanthropy’s New Agenda: Creating Value,” Harvard Business Review, November-December 1999 (OCRA)
  • Singer, Peter. “What Is a Human Life Worth,” New York Times Magazine, December 17, 2006, (LINK/OCRA)

Tues., Sept. 22
Community visit: Making Connections Providence

Assignments — to be discussed:

  • Team Research Paper, due October 1
  • Individual Paper on ‘What can $10,000 do?’ due September 29

Thurs. Sept. 24
Lecture/discussion: Demographics, issues and dynamics in Providence


  • Mayor’s Poverty, Work, and Opportunity Task Force report (OCRA)
  • Providence Plan website, (LINK)
  • RI Kids Count 2009 Factbook (OCRA)

Tues., Sept. 29
Individual Paper Due

Lecture/discussion: Nonprofit capacity building and impact


  • McKinsey & Company. Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations. Reston, VA: Venture Philanthropy Partners, 2001 (familiarize yourself with their capacity framework and capacity assessment grid). (LINK/OCRA)
  • “Organizational Development,” Chapter 3 in R.J. Chaskin, P. Brown, S. Venkatesh and A. Vidal (eds.), Building Community Capacity. Aldine de Gruyter, 2001, pp. 61-91 (GOOGLE BOOKS/OCRA)
  • Huang, Judy, Phil Buchanan, and Ellie Buteau. In Search of Impact. Cambridge: Center for Effective Philanthropy, 2006 (LINK/OCRA)

Assignment: Logic model/RFP, due October 6.

Thurs., Oct. 1
First Draft of Team Paper Due

Lecture/discussion: Measurement and Evaluation


  • Urban Institute Outcome Indicators Project, (LINK/OCRA)
  • Kramer, Mark R. Measuring Innovation: Evaluation in the Field of Social Entrepreneurship. Boston: FSG, 2005, (LINK/OCRA)
  • Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Random Assignment in Program Evaluation and Intervention Research: Questions and Answers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2003. (OCRA)

Tues., Oct. 6
Lecture/Discussion: Class presentation of logic models and RFPs
Revise for Thursday class presentations.

Thurs., Oct. 8
Board Presentation of Logic Models and RFPs

Fri., Oct. 9
Grantmaking Note: RFPs issued – proposals due back to teams Nov. 6.

National context, trends, and approaches

Tues., Oct. 13
Discussion: National trends and highlights; media coverage and disclosure


  • Ten Questions for Philanthropy, SSIR Blog, (LINK)
  • Reich, Rob, “A Failure of Philanthropy,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2005 (OCRA)

Thurs., Oct. 15
Lecture/discussion: Philanthropic impact through policy


  • Greene, Jay P., Comments from American Enterprise Institute conference, “With the Best of Intentions: Lessons Learned in K-12 Education Philanthropy,” April 25, 2005. (TBD)
  • Young, Dennis R. “Complementary, Supplementary, or Adversarial? Nonprofit-Government Relations.” Pp. 37-79 in E.T. Boris and C.E. Steuerle (eds.), Nonprofits & Government Collaboration & Conflict. The Urban Institute Press, 2006. (GOOGLE BOOKS/OCRA)

Tues., Oct. 20
Final version of Team Paper due

Community visit to Making Connections Providence

Thurs., Oct.22
Lecture/discussion: Philanthropy and Activism


  • •King, Samantha. Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006 (BOOK)

Tues., Oct. 27
Lecture/discussion: Community foundations: community voice, transparency, and impact


  • The Foundation, chapters 9 and 13
  • The Panel on the Nonprofit Sector’s “Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations” – reference edition. (LINK/OCRA)
  • Strom, Stephanie. “Charity’s Share From Shopping Raises Concern,” New York Times, December 13, 2007, (LINK)
  • Packel, Amanda & Rhode, Deborah. Ethics and Nonprofits. Stanford: Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009 (OCRA)

Thurs., Oct. 29
Lecture/discussion: Social construction of need


  • Healy, Kieran. Last Best Gifts: Altruism and the Market for Human Blood and Organs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Tues., Nov. 3
Lecture/Discussion: Technology and the next generation of philanthropy


  • Packel, Amanda & Rhode, Deborah. Ethics and Nonprofits. Stanford: Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009 (OCRA)
  • Haven, Cynthis. “Small Change, Big Payoff”. Stanford: Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2007. (LINK/OCRA)
  • Braiker, Brian. “Facebook-ing Philanthropy”, Newsweek, 2007. (LINK/OCRA)
  • “Contribute’s Tech 10: Reshaping Altruism”, MSNBC 2008. (LINK/OCRA)
  • Flannery, H et al. “Online giving Trends 2008”. Target Analytics, 2008. (OCRA)
  • Kramer, Mark. “Catalytic Philanthropy”. Stanford: Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009. (OCRA)
  • Kramer, Mark and Sarah Cooch. “The Power of Strategic Mission Investing,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2007. (For full report including extensive data, see: Cooch, Sarah and Mark Kramer. Compounding Impact: Mission Investing by US Foundations. Boston: FSG Social Impact Advisors, 2007. (OCRA)
  • Sirull, Beth. “Private Equity, Public Good,” Stanford Social Investment Review, Fall 2007. (TBD)

Thurs., Nov. 5
Lecture/discussion: Perspectives on Philanthropy


  • Strategic Giving, chapters 5 and 8
  • Bailey, Jeff. “Daddy Givebucks”. FastCompany, 2009. (LINK/OCRA)

Fri., Nov. 6
Grantmaking note: Organization proposals due back to teams

Tues., Nov. 10
Lecture/discussion: Class discussion of proposals

Teams prepare follow up questions for organizations.

Thurs., Nov. 12
Lecture/discussion: Social Entrepreneurship


  • Drayton, Bill. “15 minutes with Bill Drayton”. Stanford: Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2004. (OCRA)
  • Light, Paul. “Social Entrepreneurship Revisited”. Stanford: Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2009. (OCRA)

Tues., Nov. 17
Lecture/Discussion: Philanthropy, Policy and Government

Readings: TBD

Assignment: Final Individual Paper, due 12/10

Thurs., Nov. 19
Lecture/Discussion: Corporate Citizenship
Guests: Kathleen Finn, New England Program Manager, IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs; Cheryl Kiser, Managing Director, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship

  • IBM corporate citizenship report,
  • GE Corporate Citizenship Report,
  • Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship site,
  • Davis, Gerald F., Marina V.N. Whitman, and Mayer N. Zald. “The Responsibility Paradox,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2008.
  • Foundation Center. “Key Facts on Corporate Foundations,”
  • Epstein, Gene. “Charity Has Its Rewards for Generous Companies,” Wall Street Journal Sunday/Providence Journal, Jan. 7, 2007.

Global context, Proposal review process

Fri., Nov. 20
Grantmaking Note: Organizational responses due back to teams, prep for board

Tues., Nov. 24
Team presentations on site visits

Tues., Dec. 1
Grantmaking/discussion: class discussion of board materials

Assignment: Prepare board presentation and materials

Thurs., Dec. 3
Board materials due in hard copy and electronic form, ready for circulation to board

Lecture/Discussion: Global Public/Private Partnerships


  • Center for Strategic and International Studies – Seven Revolutions:
  • NGOs and the Millennium Development Goals, chapter 6 –The Politics of Global Partnership (TBD)

Tues. Dec. 8
Team presentations to Board, class debrief, follow up with all applicants

Thurs. Dec. 10
Final Class Session
Individual reflective essay due
Resources on RI and Providence issues:

  • General Providence data:, (research, maps, and resources link)
  • Global issues:
  • Arts & culture:
  • Children/youth:,
  • Community development/resident leadership:
  • Economy/jobs:,
  • Government/public sector:,
  • Housing/homelessness:
  • Poverty/policy:
  • Public Health:
  • Public Schools:,,
  • General advocacy and policy resources, particularly related to adult education but including other issues:

Websites relevant to Nonprofits, NGOs and Philanthropy (courtesy of Prof. Stanley Katz, Princeton Univ.):

General sites:

  • (clearing house for nonprofit ideas and news)
  • (very large list of links, broken down by category; some broken, some frivolous)
  • Urban Institute: (general social and economic policy research institute, withsection devoted to nonprofits and philanthropy)
  • Guidestar: (basic data about nonprofits organization- including organization’s tax Form 990 images; free registration required)
  • Independent Sector: (broad-based coalition dedicated to improving America’s third sector)
  • Harvest Today: (nonprofit and philanthropy news and information service)
  • Annotated Bibiliography and Resource List on “Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Fundraising Publications”:

On philanthropy:

  • (organization dedicated to promoting online philanthropy; includes ezine)
  • Ashoka: (organization supporting social entrepreneurship, with sectiondedicated to nonprofits and philanthropy)
  • Philanthropy News Digest: (Foundation Center’s online newspaper)
  • American Association of Fundraising Counsel: (Organization dedicatedto professionalizing and ensuring ethical behavior amongst philanthropies)
  • The Philanthropic Initiative: (TPI offers strategic services tophilanthropists)
  • American Institute of Philanthropy: (general purposephilanthropy website, including ratings of organizations)
  • Nonprofit Management Education Center: (large listof links to a variety of third sector related sites)

On foundations:

  • Foundation Center: (database on foundations, for both students and practitioners of philanthropy)
  • Foundation Center’s international philanthropy page:
  • Council on Foundations: (membership organization of foundations providing information, expertise and advice to foundations and general public)
  • Minnesota Council on Foundations: (includes a variety of non-Minnesota links, especially under “Links of Interest”)

On NGOs, US and international:

  • Duke University Non-governmental Organizations Research Guide: (includes very comprehensive list of NGOs, including international ones, with weblinks)
  • Boardsource: (dedicated to NGO development, especially ofboards and their members)
  • Global Policy Forum: (GPF monitors UN policymaking; this page relates to the UN and NGOs)

School: Brown University
Professor: Ann Dill & Roger Nozaki
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