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What We Care About

Culture

Productive grantmaker culture is one that accelerates progress by supporting nonprofits to be successful.

Culture is the collective behaviors and underlying assumptions of an organization.

While there is no one “right” culture, GEO’s work shows that grantmakers who cultivate cultures based on collaboration and partnership; diversity, equity and inclusion; respect and humility; responsiveness; transparency and trust; and curiosity and learning are better able to adopt the smarter grantmaking practices that matter most to nonprofits.

Creating productive culture is the result of intentionality and constant tending — this means understanding what we’re trying to achieve and continually aligning strategy, operations, talent and culture in that direction. In order to do this, everyone within the organization must understand how her or his role and behaviors either reinforces or contradicts the culture we are collectively trying to create. By working together to understand and tend our culture, we can build stronger, more inclusive and more effective organizations.

Culture is built every day in every action you take. It affects how people think about your organization, whether they trust you, and their willingness and eagerness to work with you.

Stacy Van Gorp, R.J. McElory Trust

Helpful Tools and Resources

Stay informed of the emerging trends and promising practices from the field of philanthropy through GEO’s publications and research.

  • Perspective

    Investing in Collaborative Systems Change in Turbulent Times

    Philanthropic funders have a unique role to play when leading in complexity and uncertainty. The role of funders – and others in a community working together to tackle intractable problems during turbulent times – were top of mind for attendees at the 2017 Collective Impact Convening in Boston at the end of May.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2017
  • Perspective

    From unrest to collaboration

    The biggest win for us in going through these dialogues in and outside of Baltimore was that it allowed us to develop important values on how we wanted to partner with the West Baltimore community.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2017
  • Event Materials Members Only

    The Learning Conference 2017 Discussion Guide: Culture in Action

    Recognizing the need for adopting and maintaining a learning culture in our organizations is just the first step. How do we go about addressing the challenge of actually creating and living out this culture in our daily work and across our organization? What does it mean to have an active learning culture in your organization?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2017
  • Event Materials Members Only

    The Learning Conference 2017 Discussion Guide: Disrupting a City's Culture Using Evidence-Based Optimism

    As the managing director of Chicago Beyond, a philanthropic venture investing in ideas and programs to amplify impact for Chicago’s youth, Liz Dozier discussed at GEO’s Learning Conference 2017 how Chicago Beyond is bringing community voice into data collection to answer thorny questions and spur the innovation it seeks for the young people of Chicago.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2017
  • Event Materials Members Only

    The Learning Conference 2017 Discussion Guide: Escaping the Echo Chamber

    Jessamyn Shams-Lau, the executive director of the Peery Foundation, gave a Short Talk at GEO’s Learning Conference 2017 that offered an insider look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of building an organizational culture of seeking, discussing, and implementing feedback at a family foundation.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2017

Upcoming Events

  • Conferences

    2018 National Conference

    The 2018 National Conference will provide participants with the information, connections and experiences to continue improving and pursuing smarter grantmaking practices that positively impact nonprofit effectiveness.

    • April 2018
  • Member Calls Members Only

    GEO & Philanthropy California Partnership Member Call

    This conference call explores emerging topics with your fellow GEO members - and combines in-depth information and practical examples with thought-provoking discussions.

    • September 2017
  • GEO in the Field

    A Grantmaker’s Guide to Approaching Culture

    Grantmaking that truly supports nonprofits and the communities they serve requires a deep understanding of organizational culture and its connection to nonprofit success. But how we initiate conversations about culture within our organizations, and how we make the connection to our external work, is not always clear.

    • September 2017

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

  • The exterior of a foundation building.

    Center for Effective Philanthropy

    The Ripple Effect of Foundation Culture

    "Building the right internal culture at any organization, foundations included, requires proactive attention from the CEO." Read more in this article from Kevin Bolduc, vice president of assessment tools at CEP.

  • Article Photo

    Community Wealth Partners

    Internal Culture, External Impact

    Amy Celep, Sara Brenner and Rochel Mosher-Williams share how a change-making culture positions foundations to transformational change.

  • Article Photo

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Lead Your Culture.

    In this article, the Gates Foundation shares its perspective on strengthening organizational culture.

Related Topics

Equity

No matter the outcome we are working toward, our institutions and systems were built to advantage some but not all — and data shows that inequities persist to this day. These inequities become more apparent when we take race into account.

Learn More

Organizational Change

Knowing what works and taking steps to change your work for the better is easier said than done. But real change is possible when our organizations foster innovative and supportive environments where smarter grantmaking practices can thrive.

Learn More
Kristen Scott Kennedy

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