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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.

  • Member Story Members Only

    Using Key Moment to Shape Culture: The Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

    With the retirement of their long-time CEO and a milestone distribution to celebrate, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust took this natural opporutnity to review and transition the trust’s organizational culture, grantmaking strategy, structure and processes.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • February 2018
  • Member Story Members Only

    Creating Culture Together at the GHR Foundation

    As they contemplated a period of significant growth in the foundation’s assets (along with a potential expansion of staff and programs), the staff of GHR Foundation began to explore the kind of organizational culture they all wanted to create together.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • February 2018
  • Related Materials Members Only

    GEO's Resources on Culture and Change Management

    In your first year of GEO membership, to help you stay informed of the emerging trends and promising practices from the field, I'll point you to GEO's publications, research and peer conversations. Below, find links to tools and resources on collaboration. I hope these are helpful as you explore how GEO can support your work.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • February 2018
  • Member Story Members Only

    Smarter Grantmaking in Action: Understanding Culture at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiated a multiyear process to shift its organizational culture. It all started with a deeper look at the current culture, the degree to which it matched the foundation’s values and aspirations, and potential changes to create more alignment.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2017
  • 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
    • December 2017

Upcoming Events

  • Conferences

    2020 National Conference

    • April 2020
  • 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
  • GEO in the Field

    The Role of Grants Managers in Bridging Microcultures

    Participants will think through how microcultures do or do not contribute to their organization’s overall effectiveness before brainstorming ways to bridge microcultures so that their organizations can best support their grantees.

    • March 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.

  • 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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