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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

    Making Organizational Culture More Intentional to Drive Community Change

    As more grantmakers are considering how they can advance change through their grantmaking, many funders are also thinking the need to strengthen their organizational cultures in order to work more effectively and have greater impact. Intentional cultural change work can take many different forms. Our conversation with Margie Jo Eun Joo Andreason, diversity, equity and inclusion manager at Northwest Area Foundation, and Paul Luna, president & CEO of Helios Education Foundation, during a recent GEO webinar showed two different approaches to culture change.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2019
  • Perspective

    My Journey to GEO

    Throughout my career, I have committed myself to service. First, as a community organizer, nonprofit practitioner and grantmaker; then, as a leadership coach, racial equity trainer and executive, I eagerly attempted to test and learn strategies for cultivating thriving communities. The cumulative impact of these experiences has informed a personal vision grounded in a strong desire to lead change in society in a manner that leverages the collective wisdom of each person, family and institution.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • October 2019
  • Perspective

    Lessons Learned from a Multilevel Capacity-Building Approach to Center Race in Health Equity Advocacy in Colorado

    The Colorado Trust recently released a learning paper on their cohort model approach to advancing health equity. This blog post describes a multilevel framework developed by the Cohort’s Racial Equity Team (“the Team”) to build the field’s capacity to understand and advance racial equity. We briefly describe these capacity-building efforts and highlight lessons learned through their implementation. We encourage readers to consult a recently released learning paper for more information or join GEO for a webinar on August 29, 2019.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • August 2019
  • Perspective

    Lessons from a Foundation’s Culture-Change Journey

    Helios Foundation for Education shares their lessons learned from a cultural change journey.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • January 2019
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Written Policies and Procedures

    As we strive to be more efficient we need to create manuals containing this information as well as an employee manual. Is there a template that is available for us to use and tailor for our needs?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • January 2019

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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
Meghan Duffy

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