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Organizational Effectiveness
Lasting Change 2016

Organizational Effectiveness Overview

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s (Packard Foundation) Organizational Effectiveness (OE) team provides funding to non-profit organizations, networks, and individual leaders to build core strengths in key areas of infrastructure, such as strategic and business planning, financial management, and board and executive leadership.

To more effectively support grantees in becoming stronger and more resilient, OE conducts ongoing measurement, learning, and evaluation activities for all grants. The 2016 Lasting Change report is one piece of OE’s evaluative activities, specifically examining the results of OE grants one to two years after completion.

Lasting Change Evaluation Approach

For the 2016 Lasting Change evaluation, ORS Impact conducted one-hour interviews with the executive leadership of 20 grantee organizations—a subset of all grants that closed between April 1, 2014 and March 30, 2015.

Interviews assessed whether OE grants resulted in increased capacity in the long-term, as well as the extent to which OE grants amplified program impact.

Grant Characteristics 

Grant reports included in the analysis were distributed across program areas, with the greatest numbers in Conservation & Science and Population & Reproductive Health.

ORS Impact also considered a number of relevant grant characteristics in the analysisincluding grant size, geography, and project focus—to understand how these factors might shape organizational capacity changes and program impact.  

Of the grants included in the sample, 80% were less than $45,000. The average award size was $36,006.

Two thirds of grants were domestic and one third were global.

The most prevalent focus area was Communications/Marketing, followed by Strategic Planning and Executive Leadership. However, even within a focus area, grant activities and objectives could look—or be defined by the grantee—differently.

Almost all grantees continued the capacity-building efforts they started with OE grants. 19 of 20 organizations demonstrated that capacity building in objective areas of the project focus continued, expanded, or progressed to the next logical step.

For example, one organization with grant objectives focused on building board capacity by enhancing internal controls and increasing staff and board engagement went on to build board capacity in a number of other ways.

In another example, an organization whose objectives were focused on developing a new branding strategy and social media plan went on to build out their communications strategy more broadly.

Almost all grantees addressed new and expanded capacity needs following the original grant. For nearly all grantees (18 of 20), capacity building in the project focus area resulted in capacity building in other areas of the organization.

An Executive Leadership grantee that was funded to strengthen management capacity went on to hire additional human resources staffing as a result of their OE grant.

One Communications grantee coordinated with the organization's business planning efforts to create a coherent system across communications and budgeting processes.

All grantees described improved organizational capacity. All grantees reported positive changes in organizational capacity as a result of the OE-funded project, and none reported negative outcomes.

The table to the right showcases the types of capacity outcomes reported by grantees.

- More than half of the grantees described an increase in internal clarity or alignment.

- More than half of the grantees reported strengthened organizational leadership and/or governance.

Within a focus area, we found that grant activities could look very different, yet there were observable patterns in outcomes within a few key focus areas.

- Three of the eight Communications projects reported outcomes of improved clarity in the organization's core mission, vision, purpose, or programming—extending beyond just clarity in message.

- Three of the eight Communications projects reported increased visibility and one reported increased revenue.

- Four of the six Strategic Planning projects, grants resulted in better, more functional organizational structures.

- Two of the three organizations focusing on Fund Development efforts experienced significant increases in revenue as a result of the capacity-building effort.

While all grantees reported organizational capacity outcomes, few reported specific program impacts. Seven of the 20 organizations shared information that demonstrated direct impact on their programmatic work. The grantees that reported programmatic impacts were represented in all four of Packard Foundation's program areas.

Of those that did experience program changes, the greatest number of changes were to program design, followed by program scale, and geographic or population change. None described direct impact to the people or places they served.

While not explicitly program impacts, some grantees reported infrastructure improvements at the program level, such as improved decision-making processes, especially regarding program budgets, strengthened staffing structures, and role clarity.

OE staff support and funding are critical resources for non-profit capacity building. To understand the extent to which OE provides good service to grantees, ORS Impact assessed the types of support—or the kinds of engagement—OE staff had with grantees. Grantees received a range of supports provided by Packard Foundation staff that varied in level of intensity.

Grantees overwhelmingly indicated that their engagements with OE staff were helpful, in many circumstances highlighting the staff's accessibility, support, collaboration, and non-judgmental approaches.

Beyond specific engagement with the OE program officers, grantees reported deep appreciation for the OE grantmaking funds, consistently noting that Packard Foundation was one of very few funders who made organizational capacity-building dollars available, despite there being a very significant need in the field.

Recommendations for Improvement

With regard to process, a few grantees cited needing increased clarity on the entry point of the process, increased transparency around decision-making processes (that is, who receives OE investments), and increased support in diagnosing and resolving challenges.

With regard to the types of supports or technical assistance provided, the most commonly cited recommendation was to provide resources to grantees to help inform their selection of consultants and to potentially connect grantees to consultants.

With regard to funding regulations, grantees most commonly indicated that funding should not be restricted only to the use of consultants, but instead should be available for use on staff dedicated to implementation of the project. The second most commonly cited recommendation regarding funding restrictions is to allow a proportion of grant dollars be used for administrative expenses.

An organization's developmental stage may be an important factor in organizational capacity. Exploration of the data yielded some patterns with regard to a category of analysis not included in the original evaluation design: the developmental stage of the non-profit.

The graphic below suggests that nonprofit organizations move through a number of stages in a developmental trajectory as they grow.

In future evaluative efforts, this framework may be useful for understanding the transformative impact of OE grants on non-profit capacity-building relative to where grantees are in their lifecycle.

Key Takeaways

- Grantees continue to experience positive changes in organizational capacity as a result of their 2014-2015 OE grants.

- In almost all cases, OE grants were catalysts for additional capacity-building efforts both in the areas of the project focus and in other areas of the organization.

- One to two years after completion of their respective OE grant, grantees find it difficult to clearly articulate the link between increased organizational capacity and program impacts. Deeper exploration of impact may be useful.

Sharing Learning 2016

ORS Impact also conducted the 2016 Sharing Learning evaluation, which looks at the impact of OE investments reported by grantees upon completion of the grant.