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Logic Models....Not Just for Big Foundations Anymore


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Logic modeling is popular with large foundations, but has not been embraced by many of the smaller ones. One reason is that foundations with few or no staff fear that producing one is complicated and time consuming. It doesn’t have to be. And it can be a crucial tool for small asset foundations looking to make sustained impact.

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Logic Models....Not Just for Big Foundations Anymore

  1. 1. n a T i o n a l C E n T E r F o r F a m i l y p H i l a n T H r o p y logic models….not Just for Big Foundations anymore By Erica v. Ekwurzel PASSAGES L Exploring KEy issuEs in Family giving ogic modeling is popular with large foundations, but has not been embraced by many of the smaller ones. One reason is that foundations with few or no staff fear that producing one is complicated and time consuming. It doesn’t have to be. And it can be a crucial tool for small asset foundations looking to make sustained impact. VOL 10.1 simply put, a logic model is a sys- This Passages will help you under- tematic, visual way to present a plan with stand how to incorporate logic models its underlying assumptions and theoreti- in your own decision making process cal framework. it helps a foundation ask by following the example of how one “What impact do we want to have on the foundation uses this practice both in its community?” Then you work backwards overall strategy and daily activities. to figure out what kind of activities need to take place, what kinds of projects The Story of One Foundation’s need to be supported in order to have Journey Using a Logic Model that outcome and impact. a logic model The KDK-Harman Foundation is a can tell an organization’s story and why four-year old foundation based in aus- the organization exists. tin, Texas. grantmaking has grown from The KDK-Harman Foundation, $90,000 initially to just over $1 million in with assets of approximately $20 million, 2008. The foundation’s funding priorities believes strongly in the value of logic center on “breaking the cycle of poverty models. They not only use the model for in Central Texas through education while their own work, but also ask each grantee promoting a culture of giving excellence,” to develop one—and then help them do says founder Janet Harman. she believes it. grantees find the practice makes it that education success will bring economic easier to plan, implement, evaluate, and success, not only to individual families, but communicate their programs. to the region. “Education is an essential
  2. 2. passagEs 2 n a T i o n a l C E n T E r F o r F a m i l y p H i l a n T H r o p y means towards achieving financial independence identified both opportunities and barriers to and enabling a better life for families and their future change. Harman’s background in engineering generations,” Harman explains. “a better educated and business strategy fueled her keen interest in society will result in lower crime rates, a reduction logic modeling after years of practice “using flow to the burdened healthcare system, and increased charts, arrows and analysis” in her work. at the economic productivity.” end of the logic modeling process, she and her in its theory of change, the foundation articulates board were able to articulate what they believe a strategy “to inspire educational success, financial and how they hoped to bring about change. independence and life-long learning and service.” The board and staff of KDK-Harman are committed to AppLying LOgic MOdeLS TO The deepening their knowledge of the education field to FOUndATiOn’S WOrk become more strategic grantmakers and optimize their prior to the legal establishment of the foun- impact in the communities the foundation serves. This dation, Harman had participated in national shared core value served as the impetus to exploring philanthropy conferences and attended seminars strategic giving models and, ultimately, the develop- about strategic and focused giving. although the ment of the foundation’s giving methodology. content fit her personal style and offered a struc- Before starting her foundation in 2004, Har- tured way of giving, the panelists all came from man had an engineering career. But when her large foundations, and their processes had a level children were young, she decided to “retire” of sophistication beyond the scope of a small fam- from the workforce and focused on her family ily foundation with few or no staff. and her philanthropic efforts. Her three children Determined that logic models could be adapted ––Kevin, David, and Kelly––provided the initials to foundations KDK-Harman’s size, Harman sought for the KDK-Harman Foundation. the help of the university of Texas at austin’s initially the foundation funded direct service rgK Center for philanthropy and Community programs focused on academic success. over time, service. she contracted with a graduate intern who the foundation shifted to providing programmatic possessed both the theoretical background of logic and operational support coupled with hands-on modeling and experience in program evaluation. technical support. Today it incorporates into its The intern’s focus was to facilitate and document grantmaking strategy the engagement and support the board’s discussions of giving priorities and cap- of systemic change through advocacy efforts. The ture the values and core beliefs of the foundation foundation’s grantmaking evolved and matured as with a visual representation of a logic model. the staff and board members became more engaged Throughout a process of three months, the in educational issues facing Central Texas. intern’s work consisted of: “part of being a philanthropist is to bring peo- • Coaching the foundation’s leadership and staff ple along in your vision,” says Harman. “instead on the theory and practice of logic models and of only writing checks, if you want to engage applicability to their work change over the long-haul, it is necessary to get • identifying the alignment between the founda- out into the community and get involved.” tion’s objectives, activities, and intended results When it started, the foundation had some • Capturing the underlying set of assumptions general ideas about education strategies targeted to about how KDK-Harman planned to achieve its breaking the cycle of poverty. However, the logic stated aims model process forced them to delve deeper into research on the educational landscape of Central • identifying the relationships between project Texas. Through this process, the foundation activities and evaluation activities
  3. 3. passagEs 3 n a T i o n a l C E n T E r F o r F a m i l y p H i l a n T H r o p y Through one-on-one interviews with Har- kdk-harman Foundation’s Theory of man and a series of roundtable discussions with change the founder, the foundation’s board, and the The KDK-Harman Foundation’s Theory of executive director, the intern gathered enough Change is developed from its overall mission: to data to begin charting the work, resources and break the cycle of poverty through education while planned efforts of the foundation. at the conclu- promoting a culture of giving excellence. sion of the internship, the intern had produced both a logic model and written statement—a In this we strive toward our vision of: theory of change—about the values and principles • Serving economically disadvantaged Central Texas on which the foundation’s work was based. families, especially women, to help them achieve The logic model is a concrete pillar to what the educational success KDK-Harman Foundation does on a daily basis. • Transforming their lives from poverty to financial it helps board and staff examine whether or not independence and enabling a better life for future its intervention is catalytic and if there are other generations inputs that might be necessary for the outcomes the foundation projects. The logic model is dynamic • Providing financial and capacity building resources and revised periodically to adapt to changes in to education focused nonprofits and schools the education environment. “The internal use of • Creating a culture of giving excellence in our the logic model is similar to a guidepost, assisting community through leadership, high-engagement, us with screening programs, testing them against advocacy, and innovation our logic model and ideas; and ultimately, making our selection for processing grant proposals much easier and much more straightforward.” input Activities Outputs Outcomes impact Financial resources grantmaking over $1 improvements Decrease in poverty (~$20 million) million in in: reading, rate in Central grants in 2008 writing, math Texas & science staff High-engagement grantees increase in increase in (2 pT/1 intern) partnership expand service high school economic status of • Executive Director (grantmaking reach graduation rates the Central Texas • grantee Consultant process & grantee region consulting) Knowledge Base Cross-sector Funded increase generational (board, staff & networking & programs are in college improvement network) Convening replicated acceptance & in educational graduation rates achievement Community partners public policy increase in Engagement wages and marketable skills KDK-Harman Foundation logic model
  4. 4. passagEs 4 n a T i o n a l C E n T E r F o r F a m i l y p H i l a n T H r o p y and sharpen their grantmaking focus. in early 2009, During the application process, she made a similar presentation as part of the national Center for Family philanthropy’s teleconference series. the foundation’s executive director Her efforts fit with the foundation’s high engagement provides coaching on logic models and capacity building approach to philanthropy. to communicate an organization’s grantees benefited, too. KDK-Harman staff pro- vided hands-on technical assistance to those grantees program and goals. interested in developing and/or refining a logic model. For example, the foundation’s grant application was Logic Modeling as a Living document changed to assist potential grantees in organizing and KDK-Harman’s logic model is reviewed annu- structuring their funding proposals in a manner that ally. one of the most recent adaptations was at illustrates logic modeling. During the application the beginning of 2008. at the foundation’s annual process, the foundation’s executive director provides retreat, Harman and her staff reviewed their past coaching on logic models to communicate an organi- year’s efforts, and worked towards further refining zation’s program and goals. a direct outcome of this their mission statement to include “promoting a coaching is use of the logic model depiction on the culture of giving excellence” and to explicitly add foundation’s grant application. the activities of consulting and convening to the in addition to receiving support during the grant foundation plan. Consulting and convening were application process, funded organizations of KDK- things they already did, but this was not illustrated Harman are extended support through KDK-Harman in their plan. similarly, “promoting a culture of grantee Consulting. The consulting arm of the foun- giving excellence” was a new addition to help the dation was created to build upon the strength of their foundation’s commitment to sharing their experi- grantor/grantee relationships and to help nonprofits ences and lessons learned with other foundations. overcome organizational challenges. KDK-Harman although the changes may seem minor, the grantee Consulting helps facilitate organizational foundation feels they are important. “First, refining growth and strength, but does not dictate strategy. the logic model speaks to accountability and commit- The primary role of the foundation’s second staff ment to the actions and decisions we make,” Harman member, the grantee consultant, is to work with the says. “second, in an effort to be transparent and clear foundation’s current grantee portfolio to provide on our objectives and priorities, the logic model helps capacity building services; logic model development is us communicate our role in education grantmak- one of an array of services offered. ing in Central Texas.” Both of these actions speak as one grantee put it, “The most important directly to the open partnership KDK-Harman looks learning piece of the logic modeling is that we can to foster with nonprofit service providers, funder now tell our story in a very clear, concise way so that colleagues and other community stakeholders. people can comprehensively understand all of our agency’s activities.” Logic Modeling Support The table on the next page summarizes dis- after the KDK-Harman Foundation implemented cussions and actions with two grantees, including their logic model, Harman began sharing their experi- technical assistance provided by the capacity build- ences with both fellow funders and nonprofit agencies. ing arm of the foundation, called KDK-Harman in the fall, 2008, she was invited to be a panelist at the grantee Consulting: Conference of southwest Foundations, to help other as illustrated in the chart, both grantee a and small foundations learn how to use the tool to structure grantee B had initial proposals that differed from the end grantmaking decision to fund operational support.
  5. 5. passagEs 5 n a T i o n a l C E n T E r F o r F a m i l y p H i l a n T H r o p y grantee A grantee B initial grant project request to expand the project request to expand reading program request number of students served Foundation need to enhance programming need for increased development capacity Assessment and strengthen case management, before expansion takes place not expand number of students served grantmaking operating grant to support operating grant to support the salary of a decision operations instead of a project development director for one year expansion grant Technical Continued discussion on logic Coached management the theory and practice Assistance model development and how of logic models and applicability to their work provided by this practice can benefit agency’s kdk-harman strategy Facilitated staff discussions on core values, grantee consulting agency objectives and projected plans of action shared practical literature to highlight and inform agency board Collaborated with program staff to ensure alignment of logic model with existing shared outlets for pursuing evaluation measures support on the development of a logic model Created customized visual and narrative logic model summary for agency in the case of grantee a, the executive director program expansion. grantee B plans to use its new and his team were encouraged to thoroughly think logic model in several ways: as a strategic tool for through their proposed plan to assess and improve board discussions, as an internal document to orient their programming and to focus on the organization’s staff and volunteers about the agency’s activities, and overall goals and both short-term and long-term out- as a marketing tool to share with the larger public. comes that would indicate success. Beginning in 2009, in order to respond to the orga- grantee a’s logic model helped it identify and nizational needs of its grantee partners, KDK-Harman plot its projected outcomes. The conversations with began funding general operating requests. in these types KDK-Harman led the board to consider working of grants, staff works closely with grantees in using their with a third-party evaluator to analyze all their data logic models to identify organizational indicators that for the first time. Through this exchange, KDK- can point to the impact of general operating support. Harman became intimately familiar with the current The logic model in these grants serves as an assessment and projected activities of grantee a, and grantee a tool for tracking progress of operational goals as well appreciated the thoughtfulness, diligence and flexibility as promoting learning and continuous improvement. this type of process enabled with a funding partner. in sum, logic modeling has assisted KDK- KDK-Harman’s on-staff consultant partnered Harman in the entire process of how they approach with grantee B’s management staff to construct their grantmaking. The foundation views this practice agency’s logic model. This partnership included a not only as a capacity building tool that benefits series of facilitated discussions and several iterations both the grantee partner and funder relationship, of the logic model that guided the agency staff in but also assists agency planning and articulation of a clearly articulating their intention, case and plans for well developed plan of action.
  6. 6. passagEs 6 n a T i o n a l C E n T E r F o r F a m i l y p H i l a n T H r o p y hOW LOgic MOdeLS cAn BeneFiT A reFLecTing, LeArning & MOving FOUndATiOn’S giving FOrWArd The KDK-Harman Foundation began this Harman and her team are pleased with how practice as a way to spark focused discussion on their deliberative approach to grantmaking has grantmaking goals and the intended outcomes of unfolded. Through this process, the board and their support and involvement in education-related staff have learned to articulate their values, issues. The process of developing the model: actions and expectations. Harman believes that while there is a level of sophistication to strategic • led the foundation board and staff to thoroughly giving, “the major components are commitment, vet their assumptions of the education landscape; discipline and focus on working (and adapting) • illuminated their organizational values and one’s philanthropic plan. Contributions at any beliefs; level make a impact. The key to maximizing that impact is deliberate thoughtfulness about deploy- • Helped them identify realistic efforts that aligned ing your giving strategy.” with their asset and staff size. To read more about KDK-Harman Founda- tion and the framework attributed to its activities, What initially began as a huge spectrum of visit (section: about us) potential funding areas slowly was narrowed to view detailed depictions of its logic models for down to a realistic action plan of funding efforts. grantmaking, grantee Consulting and advocacy “We became convinced that the best way to be activities. all of the aforementioned program- effective was to limit ourselves to core educational matic models align with the larger, organizational issues and to become as informed as possible about goal and intentions of KDK-Harman Foundation. them,” Harman explained. resources: additionally, KDK-Harman’s logic model Using Logic Models to Bring Together Planning, Evaluation and Action: proved to be an effective way to communicate Logic Model Development Guide, updated January, 2004, W.K. Kellogg Foundation their grantmaking priorities to the larger public. For external purposes, KDK-Harman uses its logic The innovation network has Web-based tools and resources for evaluation, including a logic model development tool. www. model to be transparent in their funding priorities and decisions. The model also is used internally by The KDK-Harman Foundation website,, has a staff and board leadership as a way to stay account- knowledge center with many additional resources on such topics able to their stated and deliberate intentions. as logic models and program evaluation. © 2010 National Center for Family Philanthropy relied upon for the purposes of avoiding penalties that may be erica villarreal ekwurzel, Consultant, KDK-Harman Foun- imposed under the Internal Revenue Service. dation, supports the organization’s work as a high engage- ment grantmaker, offering grantees fundraising, operational spECial THanKs and networking support. She also manages the foundation’s advocacy efforts. Special thanks go to the reviewers of this paper: Elizabeth A. Casselman, Executive Director, The Clowes Fund; Patricia O’Brien, Susan c. price, editor Executive Director, Stocker Foundation; Katherine Jankowski, All rights reserved. No part of this essay may be reproduced or Director of Special Projects, Harman Family Foundation. distributed in any form without the prior written permission of the National Center for Family Philanthropy. The information WE WElComE your CommEnTs. in this paper should not be taken as qualified legal advice. The National Center for Family Philanthropy, a nonprofit Please consult your legal advisor for questions about specific 501(c)(3) organization, is the only nonprofit resource dedicated legal issues discussed in this essay. The information presented exclusively to giving families and those who work with them. is subject to change, and is not a substitute for expert legal, If you have comments, questions or suggestions for a future tax, or other professional advice. This information may not be edition of Passages, contact: 1101 cOnnecTicUT Ave. nW, SUiTe 220, WAShingTOn, dc 20036 TeL: 202.293.3424 WeB: WWW.ncFp.Org