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Assessing Foundation Communication Activities: Obtaining Feedback from Audiences

Executive Vice President's Report from the 1999 Annual Report

Ford Foundation president Susan Berresford, writing in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, recently observed that a challenge in today's changing philanthropic landscape is "the increased expectation that foundations demonstrate their results to the public. As private bodies acting for the common good, foundations should show results to justify the public's trust and their special tax status." She goes on to point out that journalists, especially those who cover philanthropy, seem to "recognize this and increasingly seek evidence of success"—or presumably failure. Still, she argues, "pressure to show results is healthy and challenges us to be clear about markers of progress and results when we speak to broad audiences," concluding that "large and small foundations must make communications a priority." While the wisdom of the argument is clear, communications has not been a strong suit of foundations historically, and those launching new initiatives need to develop strategies and means for assessing their effectiveness.

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Assessing Foundation Communication Activities: Obtaining Feedback from Audiences, John E. Craig, Jr., The Commonwealth Fund, February 2000