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Closing the Gap Between Values and Practice in Philanthropy
Closing the Gap Between Values and Practice in Philanthropy
Joshua Simpson
By Joshua Simpson
April 17, 2018
A new report (“Being the Change”) from FSG explores major trends in how foundations are rethinking their organizational structures and practices to maximize social impact.

A new report entitled “Being the Change” from FSG explores major trends in how foundations are rethinking their organizational structures and practices to maximize social impact. Conversations with over 114 practitioners unearthed a strong connection between internal operations and external ambitions. In particular, foundations expressed an interest in developing a “supportive culture” for employees to promote continuous learning, reduce power dynamics, and mirror internally the change they seek externally.

Matching internal practices with external aspirations gets to the core of integrity. Said differently, it’s important for social sector organizations not only to “talk the talk” but also to “walk the walk." At THRUUE, we believe that an organization’s north star (mission, vision, and values) serves as the foundation for organizational culture and behavior.

When an organization’s north star is carefully crafted through a collaborative process, and when leadership teams align organizational practices, policies, and behaviors to the north star, the way people experience an organization matches its stated identity. Conversely, choosing values and championing causes without aligning organizational behavior creates a gap in integrity, which results in decreased credibility with stakeholders and cognitive dissonance for staff.

Promoting change "out there" is difficult without getting your own house in order first. As the FSG report highlights, relationships that foundation staff hold with stakeholders, from government officials to marginalized communities, are increasingly integral to change-making strategies. Employee retention, therefore, is all the more important for social impact --  and culture is a significant factor in whether employees will stay or leave.

Organizations must behave in ways that reflect their values. That’s the first step towards being the change.

(Note: the post’s author also contributed to the research and findings in FSG’s report)