AmandaStPierreMeasuring Progress, Inspiring Action

By: Amanda St. Pierre In: 2010 Fall Conference| Community Foundations

14 Sep 2010

After seeing that Monica Patten, president and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, would be a panelist at Measure Progress, Inspiring Action Through Key Indicator Projects, this session moved to the top of my must-attend list. I’ve been very interested in the Canadian Vital Signs project since I first learned of it in Montreal a couple of years ago. I was eager to see how U.S. foundations were executing their own indicator projects designed to gather neutral data and share the results with donors to track progress and identify areas for improvement.

Speaking about Canadian Vital Signs, Patten described the initiative as a way for community foundations to show they are thoughtful, connected to the community, and are able serve as go-to knowledge centers.

Panelists representing U.S. community foundations included Michael Batchelor of The Erie Community Foundation, Charlotte Kahn of the Boston Indicators Project, and Jennifer Evins of The Spartanburg Community Foundation. Though their history with community indicator projects varied (The Erie Community Foundation just unveiled its project in June, while Spartanburg has been reporting on community indicators since 1987), there were several common threads among the projects:

  • Partnerships are essential for executing a successful indicator project. Panelists cited relationships with some combination of organizations including the United Way, their local chamber of commerce, their city government, and a local university.
  • For the most part, the data already exists (e.g., census data)—the community foundation’s role is to interpret the data, prioritize needs, and share it with the community in a way that inspires dialogue and action.
  • Aligning grantmaking with indicators makes good sense. Patten also mentioned using the data as a basis for fund development, community leadership, and public policy work.
  • Indicator projects position community foundations to take a risk.

As a communications professional, I was most interested to hear how the panelists were going beyond grantmaking to use the data for community engagement. Panelists mentioned reporting on indicators online, via community reports, and through community town hall-style meetings. The Erie Community Foundation is also communicating about their indicators via their gift remittance envelopes.

Following the session I still have loads of questions swirling around in my head. The one that stands out is how can a connection be made between community indicator data and a or model of giving for community foundations? If you have any additional examples or ideas please share.

Amanda St. Pierre is the public relations and marketing specialist of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation

2 Responses to Measuring Progress, Inspiring Action

Maria Gajewski

September 15th, 2010 at 9:49 am

Amanda, you ask an intriguing question. As a donor and an evaluator, I would love to be able to hop onto, read through the indicators, and target my donation to an area that I see needs help and resonates with my passions.


September 15th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I imagine that each community foundation works differently to some extent based upon the specific community it supports, but again, there must be similarities. This sounds like an interesting forum. You might like this cool time lapse video shot in an urban community in Toronto Take a look and see how Kia is driving change.

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