Looking for Impact? Don’t Overlook the Ripple Effect
Grantmakers are always looking for impact. We define the quantitative outcomes we want to achieve with our funding. We collect qualitative evidence through stories of those whose lives are changed as a result of our work. But we often forget to look for and capture the “ripple effect” of the grants that we make.
Here are two examples:
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recently gave a grant to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County to update its business model. As part of that updating process, the Community Foundation is collecting and curating data about the business models of other community foundations across the country. They will share that information widely with their peers, who are hungry for it. Hence, they will help elevate awareness of working business models for community foundations everywhere.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation hired my firm last year to conduct afield scanof foundations that were working to incorporate equity not only into their grantmaking, but into their internal operations as well. RWJF allowed us to publish the findings of our scan and share them with the field, and I’ve been asked topresent and discussthose findings twelve times in the last ten months. The work that RWJF commissioned has rippled throughout the field.
In the cases above, the ripple effects stretch well beyond the original intent of the grant or contract being made. And if the funders in question weren’t watching for those ripples, their impact might not be captured in their own grant evaluation and reporting.
Ripple effects can also emanate from more than just your financial investments. It may be that your presence, voice, shared knowledge or convening of others created a ripple effect as well.
Once you begin to look, I bet you’ll find ripple effects everywhere! If you want to start capturing the ripple effects of your work, be sure to ask your grantees,advisorsand partners what they’ve seen. They’ll likely be able to point to positive impacts that ripple far beyond what you ever thought possible.
© 2017 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.