One of the things I’m working on at Kaiser Permanente ( is benchmarking my company’s philanthropic program against leading, well-managed, “best in class” foundations and corporate giving programs. We started the process with peers who are mostly from large corporations and independent foundations, and we’d like to broaden the circle.

About 25 participants have completed a five-question survey and indicated their interest in learning from each other. The sort of things we’re looking at include operations management (e.g., volume, throughput, turnaround time, tracking, and reporting), communication, governance, effectiveness/evaluation of grants, transparency, accessibility, and strategy/theory of change. I know—it’s a lot!

In this Common Space session, I’m hoping to connect with colleagues with similar interests in excellence in management of philanthropy to see where we have enough shared interest/energy/enthusiasm, and see how we can help each other with ideas and tools.

The colleagues who have responded so far to the question, “Name up to three things you are working on this year with regard to grants administration/grants management,” have said:

  1. Leveraging online capabilities. This includes increasing web presence and functionality, and/or enabling online applications.
  2. Expanding the use of software technology or database tools. This includes increasing database capacity for capturing more (and better) information, and making it easier to run reports.
  3. Streamlining processes. This theme goes hand-in-hand with improving technological capabilities and the desire to reduce paperwork.
  4. Improving metrics. This includes frameworks for measuring outcomes and effectiveness of grants.

So to get our Common Spaces conversation started, what are three priorities for you this year and why?

Dinah Waldsmith Dittman is the national director, Community Engagement and Philanthropy at Kaiser Permanente

1 Response to Best Practices in Management of Philanthropy

Dinah Dittman

April 11th, 2011 at 11:34 am

We had a lively discussion yesterday among grantmakers who are in various stages of assessing thier management practices. We talked about separating the issues between strategic and tactical, and acknowledged that “best in class” is open to interpretation and can be subjective. We referenced the resources that we were using in our work (e.g. Council on Foundations, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship) and agreed that this was an area of ongoing need, especially given changes in the grantmaking environment. We discussed potential collaboration with funders from the independent, family and community philanthropic sectors, and we agreed to keep in touch and share learnings and tools, as we develop or find them. If you missed the session but would like to know more, you can email me at

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