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Influencing Funder Practice

The Challenge

Influence is key to our work at the Ford Foundation and to philanthropy as a whole.

Many of us in this space combine forces to shift how government, business, and nonprofits tackle urgent problems such as climate change, poverty, or threats to democracy. We also want to influence how the sector as a whole leverages philanthropy—whether this means a shift to giving larger grants, creating more flexible grants, or designing grants through a lens of diversity—in pursuit of a more equitable world.

As important as this work is, we don’t have a solid understanding of why certain efforts are effective in creating the influence they intend and what causes others to fail.

To improve our understanding, we commissioned Milway Consulting to look at 12 independent initiatives aimed to influence how grantmakers and others engage in philanthropy and identify what advanced and prevented the adoption of good practice.

What’s in the Report(s)

These documents are a culmination of research conducted in 2019 by Milway Consulting and Ford to better understand funder behaviors and practices as they pertain to building influence.

White Paper: Influencing Funder Practice

Philanthropists are increasingly combining forces to improve grantmaking, but what it takes to match their “will to skill” to influence practice can feel murky. Twelve multiyear initiatives of the past decade shed light on promising approaches and four consistent proponents of change.

The white paper was prepared by Katie Smith Milway, principal of Milway Consulting; Chris Cardona, a Ford program officer for BUILD and Philanthropy; and Kathy Reich, BUILD’s director.

Case Studies: Campaigns for Philanthropic Change

This report features a collection of six case studies of initiatives to improve understanding of funder influence, including Big Bets for Social Change, Blue Meridian Partners, Diversity in Five Years (D5), Full Cost Project, Fund for Shared Insight and The Giving Pledge.

The case studies were prepared by Katie Smith Milway, principal of Milway Consulting, with thanks to researchers Michelle Basta, Chinedum Egbosimba, Andrew Mao, Kyle Ranieri, Greg Vanderhorst, and Jennifer Welsh.