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Reading List: funding Theme

Finding Your Funding Model

In a follow up to their 2009 article ‘Ten Nonprofit Funding Models,’ Peter Kim, Gail Perreault and William Foster of the Bridgespan Group argue organizations often have a clearer vision of what their programs will be in five years than of the funding that will support them. They offer a road map for leaders seeking to develop appropriate funding models for their organizations:

Getting a deep understanding of one’s own fundraising approach and history, learning from peers, tallying the likely costs of change and weighing them against expected benefits—are three critical steps on the road to a funding model. And when the time comes to pilot and implement the one or two most promising funding models, a well-developed plan is essential.

And they remind why a critical but oft-overlooked aspect of strategy is knowing what to say ‘no’ to:

Moving forward with more than two [models] carries a high risk of overtaxing management and development staff. Then why not just settle on a single funding model right now?
The issue is uncertainty. At this stage, it may still be difficult for a nonprofit to know which model will work best, and there could be benefits in trying out the two most promising options to see which has the best prospects.

The authors offer two disclaimers in the form of size and a necessary precondition: organizations must be ‘free of immediate financial distress and [able to] focus on developing a long-term funding strategy’ as well as over $3 million in annual revenue. Below this level, the more ‘idiosyncratic’ approaches that predominate are likely to be as productive, therefore not justifying the significant investment inherent in their process.

Finding Your Funding Model (SSIR article)

Finding Your Funding Model: A Practical Approach to Nonprofit Sustainability (Bridgespan website with tool)


Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science

His model predicted, in different fields of medical research, rates of wrongness roughly corresponding to the observed rates at which findings were later convincingly refuted: 80 percent of non-randomized studies (by far the most common type) turn out to be wrong, as do 25 percent of supposedly gold-standard randomized trials, and as much as 10 percent of the platinum-standard large randomized trials.

These were challenging facts for me, as a deep believer in science and rigorous research. It’s worth considering the meaning of these findings in the health field for the new focus on evidence-based funding in the social sector and in foundations. The author argues, based on the above, that when science becomes big business, when one’s livelihood depends on finding positive effects, the scientific ideal (the search for truth) regularly falls under the wheels. Are social interventions any easier to study than biological systems — and therefore any more likely to produce accurate results under the best of research conditions? Does the new pressure for evidence-based funding create high stakes that will generate bias and inaccuracy in purportedly scientific studies of programs? The arts aren’t under the microscope of evidence-based funding today, but this shift in the thinking around us is already starting to inform the thinking of the program officers and donors upon which we rely. What can we do to ensure a reliable system of study in our field if evidence-based funding is going to become a foundation of philanthropy?

via Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science – Magazine – The Atlantic.


Will the recession mean theatre takes fewer risks?

The Guardian’s Theatre Blog has a thought-provoking post, siting a survey of arts and culture professionals that revealed 41% will be programming more “popular” work and 37% will be reducing the amount of “challenging” work that they commission. As an arts leader, how do you balance financial and creative risks?

Read Will the recession mean theatre takes fewer risks? | Eleanor Turney | Stage |