The Philanthropy Canvas: Evaluating a foundation’s operating model

Donzelina Barroso and Olga Tarasov

As part of an ongoing initiative to help the philanthropic sector more deeply understand the Theory of the Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors recently developed an analytical framework to help foundations to engage in self-evaluation and analysis. This Philanthropy Canvas, ideated from the Business Model Canvas created by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, is a useful tool for aligning all elements of the model for mission, strategy and impact.

As a visual model, the Philanthropy Canvas invites foundation staff, trustees and other key stakeholders to map out the elements necessary to implement a foundation’s strategy in relationship to both its core framework (charter, social compact, and operating capabilities) and to the external environment that it seeks to influence and by which it is in turn influenced.

This framework spurs in-depth thinking on what a foundation is or seeks to be, based on mission and strategy, key activities, resources, relationships (partners and audiences), funding, costs, channels, and beneficiaries. It also accounts for the constraints of resource realities and the state of the world. Understanding how a foundation or program operating model compares to one similarly situated can highlight areas for further analysis and potential change.

The Philanthropy Canvas can also be used to:

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