Colleagues working together.

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.

  • 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
    • December 2017
  • Publication

    Culture Resource Guide: Assess

    Once we have gained a good understanding of the culture of our organizations, it’s time to assess the degree to which that culture supports our values, goals, mission and vision. This means asking tough questions about which aspects of our current culture reflect and reinforce the values and strategies at the heart of our work, and which aspects do not.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2017
  • Publication

    Culture Resource Guide: Understand

    A productive internal culture aligned with a foundation’s mission and goals is essential to support nonprofit resilience and success. In other words, if we are striving to have more impact, we should look not just at our external strategies and theories of change, but also at the ingrained behaviors, assumptions and values that drive our daily work and our interactions with grantees and other partners.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2017
  • Publication

    Culture Resource Guide: Overview

    After more than 15 years promoting grantmaker practices that support nonprofit results, GEO is convinced that a strong culture inside foundations is critical for effective philanthropy. The following sections of this guide provide more perspective on each of these phases of culture change: understand, assess, shift and tend.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2017
  • Publication Members Only

    Is Grantmaking Getting Smarter?

    Through our research over the past 20 years, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has identified a set of grantmaker practices that help nonprofits achieve better results. Every three years, GEO conducts a study to help us understand how we are doing as a field, including trends over time as well as new areas of inquiry.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2017

Upcoming Events

  • Conferences

    2018 National Conference

    Hosted in partnership with Philanthropy California, 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

Discover More

I’m looking for
on this topic
Show me all resources for this topic

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

Questions?

Speak directly to our Senior Manager

Reach out

Join the GEO Community

500+ members sharing insights and learnings to move philanthropy forward.