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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.

  • 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
    • March 2018
  • Related Materials Members Only

    Conversation Starter: Understanding Incentives

    When certain aspects of the “old” culture seem intractable, even though new expectations have been introduced, the culprit could be that old behaviors are still inadvertently incentivised.

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

    Conversation Starter: Seeing and Understanding Culture

    This conversation starter will explore how foundation leaders have made organizational culture more visible to themselves and others.

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

    Conversation Starter: Translating Values into Practice

    Values gain meaning and immediacy when they have a direct connection to policies, practices and behaviors. This piece discusses the importance of translating values into specific, actionable behaviors that can be experienced and noticed so that the organization’s culture reflects those values.

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

    Conversation Starter: How CEO & Senior Leader Relationships Shape Culture

    The relationship between the CEO and her right hand person (or people) sets the stage for leading change and establishing and maintaining a productive culture.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • 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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