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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.

  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Support grantee cohorts that speak different languages?

    Do you know of any examples or best practices on how to serve grantee cohorts and grantees when they speak different languages? Democracy Fund is part of a state funder collaborative in North Carolina that will support a cohort of local news and information nonprofits through grants, and probably will have at least one organization that has leaders that speak primarily Spanish. We also are hoping to support some convenings, as well as other types of resources such as informal mentorships, readings, etc. We hope to continue to make this funder collaborative’s offerings, as well as other work we do beyond NC, more accessible to organizations that have staff and leaders that speak languages other than English. We started by making this collaborative’s application and guidelines available in Spanish, and provided an interpreter for conversations during the application process, but know that we could do more. Thanks for any thoughts, ideas, feedback or links!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Staff Professional Development Trainings

    Hello all, We have just completed an amazing year of learning and personal development as a staff (adaptive leadership, racial equity, crucial conversations and facilitation for accountability), and we are ready for more! What trainings have your organizations supported for your staff?? What recommendations would you make for our next year of personal development trainings? All the best, Melanie

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • Publication

    Culture Resource Guide: Shift

    Shifting culture doesn’t simply mean developing a fresh values statement or identifying three or four cultural attributes that we want to define us. Rather, we need to back up these actions with real work to create a culture that will make our organization and our grantees more successful.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • Related Materials

    Organizational Culture: Articles and Readings

    This list compiles articles, reports and other readings on each phase of the culture framework.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • Publication

    Culture Resource Guide: Tend

    Creating a productive foundation culture — one that accelerates impact and supports nonprofits to be successful — is the result of intentionality and constant tending. Tending culture means understanding what we’re trying to achieve and then continually aligning strategy, operations, talent and culture in that direction.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018

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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.

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    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


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.

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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.

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Kristen Scott Kennedy


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