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GoodWork in Philanthropy

Phase I: 1999-2002

The GoodWork Project in Philanthropy began with 17 interviews of experts in the field. These "informants" helped us determine the principal issues in philanthropy and to identify leading practitioners in traditional foundations with assets over 500 million dollars. We then conducted two-hour, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with twenty-five "good workers," nominated by the informants we talked with. These people included donors, board members, executives, and program officers. We also interviewed 11 grant recipients, people in the nonprofit field who have successfully created and/or run organizations that have been supported over a number of years by large foundations. We were interested in what subjects working in (and with) these foundations consider to be the mission of the field, successful strategies in the field, and obstacles to doing GoodWork. We generated empirical data on the practices and standards in the field, as well as the values underlying them.

Phase II: 2002-2005

Our Phase I analyses of data indicated that the field is rapidly evolving beyond anything we expected when we began the investigation. New trends are forcing traditional philanthropy to reexamine its beliefs and practices. Certain innovative practices are challenging the field and influencing its general direction. With this in mind, we expanded our study and focus to include examination of four emerging trends in philanthropy: venture philanthropy, donor-advised funds, electronic philanthropy and the funding of ideas that impact public policy. We also expanded our work to include eight case studies. They include four studies of the funding streams of individual nonprofit organizations (such as Teach For America, Children's Express, and the Boston Ten Point Coalition) and four studies of foundations undergoing radical transitions (such as The Olin Foundation and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation).