Conversation with Polk Brothers Foundation, Part 2

The conversation with the Polk Brothers Foundation concluded with a senior officer sharing more about the current fundraising climate and what non-profits can expect when being evaluated.


Non-profit organizations need charity (individual donors) and philanthropy (Foundations).   The case for support is very different.  Individual donors will give because they love what you do.  That’s charity.  To break into philanthropy, non-profit organizations must answer the question, “How do we measure up to all the other organizations requesting funding?”

Your organization must build relationships with the philanthropic community.  Polk Bros. makes site visits for every proposal received.  Program managers at Polk Bros. want to represent every non-profit in the best possible light to its Board.  So help them help you.


Strategic philanthropy is about striking a balance between the instrumental and the emotional.  Solving the homeless problem is an example of instrumental philanthropy.  An example of emotional philanthropy is funding to keep the Opera from shutting its doors.

Funders want to see new, exciting and innovative approaches to age old problems.  Here are some of the Polk Bros. evaluation shifts in familiar and popular programs.

Workforce Development Programs

Funding is shifting from pre-employment training and placement to vocational skills training and placement.  Vocational skills training curriculum design has shifted from 6th grade comprehension to 9th grade.

Reading Programs

It is not as impactful to report that prior funding purchased 2,000 books for kids. Outcomes need to address how the program has increased literacy by what percentage over what period of time.   Correlate the purchase of books to more clients being able to read.

College Readiness Programs

In addition to reporting the number of students admitted to college, add statistics on college persistence.    What percentage returned for the second year?  How many graduated from college?

Job Readiness Programs

While reporting how many participants were placed into jobs, include data on placements made by career choice and on longevity trends.


Evaluation and reporting may pose problems for some non-profits.   It’s just not a priority, but it needs to be.  Make it a priority.  Many agencies cycle through clients and do not track them once they leave the program.  This makes follow-up and longitudinal information difficult to obtain, but this is a MUST DO!

Finally, foundations are looking at your organizational plan to institutionalize philanthropy.  Foundations look at an individual giving threshold.  If it falls below 6%, future funding could be in jeopardy.