Looking forward? Consider looking back first


Page Snow


With 2016 approaching, many foundations will be charting their course for the coming year. Before moving forward, however, consider taking a look back. A thoughtful review of last year’s grantmaking priorities, social impact and finances can help inform what you do next year. Here are some topics you might want to discuss:

Fiscal Realities and Future Forecast

  • Will the return on last year’s investments allow us to meet our planned distributions for the coming year?
  • Will we our cash flow and cash reserves meet operational needs?
  • Will we be receiving additional assets?

Anticipated Spending

  • How much of our budget did we spend on non-profits that we have traditionally supported? Was it enough?
  • How much of our budget was spent on targeted programmes and how much on new opportunities? Was it enough?
  • Will we want to set aside a ‘rainy day’ fund for serendipitous opportunities?

Discretionary Funding

Foundations in the US, at least, can give board and/or family members a set amount of discretionary funds each year to donate as individuals, unless the charter specifically prevents it. This has both advantages – it fosters engagement and can incubate new programmes – and drawbacks – it diverts resources and focus from a common mission. If we choose this, what criteria will we apply? Will there be limits in terms of geographic or thematic area? Will the board need to approve them?

Impact Assessment

  •      What was our impact this year and what do we expect it to be next year?
  •      What realistic goals can we set?

Mission Scope

  • With these things in mind, and given current and anticipated resources, is  this either too broad or too narrow?
  • Do developments in our field call for a change of focus? (For example, a foundation devoted to finding a cure for a disease might want to move toward prevention if a promising vaccine is on the near-term horizon).
  • Overall, are we satisfied with our impact?

Personal Satisfaction

The foundation was established to do good work, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun to work on it. Consider the following:

  • Have we devoted too much time to administration?
  • Is the distribution of responsibility and work load fair?
  • Are we all engaged and committed to our work?
  • Have we fully leveraged everyone’s talents and skills?

And finally, any New Year’s resolutions?

  • What were the challenges that went unmet last year?
  • What do we want to do differently next year?

This post is based on Conducting Your Annual Review which can be downloaded from the Foundation Source website: http://www.foundationsource.com/resource_item/foundation-annual-review/

Page Snow

Page Snow is Chief Philanthropic Officer at Foundation Source

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