Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors recently released a report on how foundations are dealing with increased public scrutiny and criticism.

Best Practices Philanthropic OrganisationsThe report, Social Compact In A Changing World comes in the aftermath of a backlash against the US$1 billion pledge by private donors to restore the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it was devastated by fire; the increasing perception that private funders are imposing their own solutions on societal problems without appropriate consultation; and that their philanthropy would be unnecessary if they paid appropriate taxes.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors define ‘social compact’ as an entity’s “implicit or explicit agreement with society about the value it will create”. It involves concepts such as accountability, transparency, legitimacy and public trust, which currently is at a low ebb in regard to all mainstream institutions and those who are perceived to be in positions of power.

In the report, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors recommends seven practices and approaches that may be helpful for foundations seeking to review their social compact.

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, who is engaged in decisionmaking, and how they are engaged. This can include demonstrating successes, sharing 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

Demonstrate 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 the foundation’s work and philanthropy generally, in order to adjust strategies and act based on evidence.

6. Reflect and Assess

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

Broaden 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.

To read the full report, go here.

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