Social Compact in a Changing World

As foundations and philanthropists adapt to the new reality, this report identifies some best practices that can build legitimacy and deeper connection with the community.

Key recommendations for foundations to be more strategic include:

  1. Align: Strive for internal clarity and a common understanding of the social compact, including the role in society, targets of accountability, sources and arbiters of legitimacy, and the public good the foundation serves
  2. Communicate: Develop a robust external communications strategy to relay to the public what the foundation does, why it does it, and who and how is engaged in decision-making. This can include demonstrating successes, lessons gleaned from failures, grantmaking transparency, peer learning and community outreach across a spectrum of platforms.
  3. Listen: Build genuine feedback loops that enable input, participation and representation of communities served in decision-making, and support a consultative method of program design. Listening to communities makes it easier to identify needs, increase the effectiveness of programs, and enhance trust.
  4. Demonstrate: Provide information about how feedback loops and consultative engagement have helped to enhance and fine-tune the foundation’s focus areas, initiatives, grantmaking and strategies to show a genuine commitment to and positive effect of these approaches.
  5. Research: Conduct regular landscape research to measure the temperature and public attitude toward philanthropy generally, and the foundation’s work, in order to adjust strategies and act based on evidence.
  6. Reflect: Assess internal operations and external work regularly against a set of indicators that measure effectiveness, impact or progress. It is important to openly share and discuss the results internally among staff and externally with grantees, partners and other stakeholders to devise effective next steps.
  7. Broaden Representation: Enhance board representation, as well as that of stakeholders who provide inputs into program strategy and design, in order to reflect interests and viewpoints of different sectors, including private, public, nonprofit, grantees, and issues area experts.