Why Focus on Knowledge?

Knowledge is different from information and data. Data consist of words and numbers that in and of themselves hold no meaning. These words and numbers become information when given context and imbued with interpretation. Knowledge results when information is combined with experience, and transformed into actionable insight.

Philanthropy is uniquely positioned to not only generate knowledge, but also to disseminate it. Foundations deploy financial resources and human intelligence to test solutions to pressing social, economic, and environmental issues. They gather data and compile information about their efforts, reflect on what they are learning, and apply those lessons in service of achieving greater impact. Consider the sources of knowledge that foundations commonly generate:

  • Program and grantee evaluations. Independent evaluations of foundation programming and grantee work.
  • Strategy development. Scanning the landscape, issue analysis, or other research commissioned as part of strategy development.
  • Foundation performance assessments. Assessments of foundation performance that incorporate grantee and community feedback.
  • Thought leadership. Authority and ideas for change that arise from the perspective and experience of foundation leaders.
  • Internal learning. Formal and informal reflections that are shared among foundation staff and board members.
  • External learning. Discussions that take place externally with community stakeholders, nonprofits, and foundation peers.

The lessons emerging from these sources have potential bearing on the efforts of other foundations and on research and community initiatives across diverse fields. Foundations provide new and valuable perspectives that especially shine when they reach beyond their immediate professional circles.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Open for Good.