Communities of Practice:  Learning Agendas, Coaching, Cohort Development 

Council on Foundations Career Pathways Capstone Project Design - Arlington, Virginia

Elizabeth designed and manages the culminating capstone assignment for the Career Pathways Program. These projects are selected by cohort members, with the approval of their supervisors, based on the project’s ability to improve the organization and advance the cohort member’s leadership. Elizabeth coaches each cohort member in the selection and implementation of projects which are presented during a Spring Colloquium, during which the presenter’s peers a small group of field experts offer guidance and insight. Drawing on her coaching and organizational development expertise, Elizabeth designed the project guidelines, periodic peer-learning sessions and concluding Spring Colloquium.  Several of the projects have been re-purposed as case studies, articles, panel discussions and webinars.


Aspen Institute Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network - Washington, DC

Elizabeth’s leadership role in creating Aspen’s Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network offers an example of working directly with CEOs, staff and trustees to advance and measure the impact of community- building projects. Through a competitive process that assessed commitment to and experience in rural community development, two cohorts of four community foundations were selected to participate in a year- long, peer-learning program. As lead facilitator and designer for one 4-member cohort, Elizabeth toured each community foundation’s region, conducted 1-1 interviews at intervals throughout the program and designed three 4-day learning institutes aimed at improving individual projects as well as the cohort’s collective impact.


Council on Foundations Foundation CEO Summer Retreat - Arlington, Virginia

For the Council on Foundations, Elizabeth developed the organization’s first-ever three-day, peer-learning retreats for CEOs leading foundations with assets $100M+. To achieve its goal of inspiring and engaging CEOs in the critical issues facing philanthropy, Elizabeth advised the Council on agenda, location, tone, size, and readings. To customize the learning experience, she conducted and synthesized pre-retreat interviews with participants. Her analysis helped to identify retreat themes and assign participants to small groups based on common questions and interests.

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Research, Data Analysis, Evaluation, and Strategic Planning

Ruth Mott Foundation – Flint, MI

With a consulting partner, Elizabeth led an intensive strategic planning process exploring all aspects of this family foundation entering new executive leadership and organizational maturity. Based on the research and learning products presented by Elizabeth, the foundation explored the risks and rewards of place-based philanthropy – including the option of focusing its funds on the North Side of Flint, a historically African American area of Flint experiencing even more profound disinvestment and poverty than other areas of the city. Following an eight-month strategic learning and planning process, the board approved this new emphasis on North Flint, along with a renewed commitment to social justice and equity, unanimously.


Global Fund for Children - Washington, DC

In advance of its first-ever comprehensive strategic planning process, Elizabeth worked closely with the Fund’s new executive director to design and present a strategic review of the processes, impact, goals and landscape of this 15-year-old public foundation. The strategic review included analysis of the foundation’s financial position, competitive landscape, grantmaking footprint and fundraising potential. During this critical executive transition period, Elizabeth helped build the capacity of staff and board to challenge assumptions and make critical decisions. Having collected data on the foundation’s past, the CEO was able to make a practical case for measuring short- and longer term metrics to capture progress toward objectives outlined in the strategic plan.


Deaconess Community Foundation - Cuyahoga County, Ohio

For first time in this 15-year-old hospital conversion foundation’s history, its board and staff have engaged in a comprehensive and inclusive strategic planning process.  Focused on advancing self-sufficiency of disadvantaged individuals and families in Cuyahoga County, the foundation is committed to playing a community leadership role beyond its relatively modest annual grantmaking budget. To launch the process, EMC conducted an inclusive engagement of community, nonprofit, business and local government stakeholders in a strategic review of the foundation’s internal performance and external impact in Cuyahoga County. Combining on-line surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews and a review of grantmaking history with data on demographic shifts and economic indicators, this review will contribute to a more inclusive and objective understanding of the foundation’s current position and potential for impact. Feedback and data collection mechanisms, modeled during the strategic review process, will be built into implementation of the strategic plan.


Philamplify, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy – Washington, DC

As an independent researcher for Philamplify, an initiative of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) that aims to maximize the impact of our country’s grantmakers, Elizabeth conducted three comprehensive assessments of national foundations. Philamplify assessments are based on high-impact grantmaking and operational practices described in Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact and Real Results: Why Social Justice Philanthropy Is Strategic Philanthropy.  Assessments included grantee surveys, over dozens of individual stakeholder interviews, literature reviews and analysis of foundation performance on the following criteria:  

•    Mission, goals and objectives support for systemic change to address important societal problems.
•    Assessment of outcomes and impact, especially on issues of equity and social justice
•    Wise stewardship:  investments, operating support and multi-year grants
•    Internal operations: good governance, ethics and transparency


Essential Skills and Strategies, Council on Foundations - Arlington, Virginia

In February 2010, the Council contracted with EMC to perform an assessment of its program for new grantmakers and to suggest ways it might be modified and improved. One indicator of success for Council staff was a reduction in the number of times it hears members comment that the Council no longer “does” new grantmaker education. EMC’s recommendations drew from staff and participant interviews, review of content and assessment of competitor programming. The final recommendations memo organized findings and recommendations into three categories: 1. content; 2. meeting logistics and design; and 3. membership/brand- building.

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Content and Training Development

Successful Structures Project, Grants Managers Network – Washington, DC

In partnership with another consultant, Elizabeth has researched and written a set of case studies to support the Grants Managers Network’s goal to elevate the importance of grantmaking practices (the “how”) to the same level as program (the “what”) and relationships (the “who”) within grantmaking organizations. Incorporating survey data and on-the-ground practice, this project aims to increase foundation effectiveness by connecting grants operations ith organizational learning and strategic decision-making. 


RUFes – Rural Family Economic Success and WealthWorks, Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group – Washington, DC

Elizabeth has identified, researched and produced case studies that exemplify and advance the learning goals of CSG’s networks of community economic development practitioners. She also provided editorial support for the WealthWorks Guide, a set of how-to materials designed to assist practitioners in pursuing a systematic regional economic development approach that identifies enterprising opportunities in a region and engages a wide range of partners in turning those opportunities into results that both build and capture wealth. 


Council on Foundations Career Pathways Program - Arlington, Virginia

Elizabeth provided program design, selection and curriculum development consulting to both the pilot (2010 – 2013) and “2.0 version” (2016 - ) of the Council on Foundations Career Pathways Program, a cohort-based program for senior foundation leaders, representing diverse backgrounds, seeking to compete and succeed in a “C-suite” position. Based on research finding a relative dearth of diversity in foundation “c-suites,” the Pathways Program has not only advanced the leadership acumen of its first two cohorts, it has made a practical case (and offered a slate of candidates) for diverse and inclusive hiring in philanthropy. Elizabeth has designed the program’s learning sessions focusing on individual, philanthropic and organizational leadership. She developed and coached participants through the assignment, completion and presentation of capstone Home Institution Case Studies.


Success Measures, NeighborWorks America - Washington, DC

Elizabeth contributed to the design team that developed content and prepared speakers for a day-long symposium for community development practitioners, funders, researchers and government agencies. This anchor session of NeighborWorks’ National Training Institute was called Using Evaluation to Build Evidence and Drive Learning. Elizabeth gleaned content priorities and drafted an agenda to address the history, trends and emergent practices in evaluation.


Aspen Institute Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network - Washington, DC

For the Aspen Institute’s Rural Development Philanthropy Learning Network, Elizabeth customized session guides, homework and presentation tools as well as peer-learning exercises to advance participants’ specific rural development goals. Deepening connections and accountability among these like-minded foundations was an explicit goal of the program. Original research on foundation-led community development grounded the cohort’s learning. Elizabeth researched, wrote and presented practical guides and case studies on topics including community development grantmaking, endowment building, and structural models for rural community foundations. She developed a series of workshops for community foundation staffs and boards, based in part upon the team’s original research, for example, Covering Rural Territory: A Framework of Rural Service Structures for Community Foundations.


Neighborhood Funders Group, - Washington, DC

Elizabeth’s work in rural community development prepared her to serve as Project Director for the Community Giving Resource/, a project of the Neighborhood Funders Group [NFG], an affinity group of foundations making community-based, anti-poverty grants in rural and urban settings.  First as a loaned executive and later as a consultant, Elizabeth worked directly with NFG’s CEO to develop on-line resources specifically for small family foundations and individual donors interested in community development grantmaking, but too often overwhelmed by issues – and jargon – used by institutional funders. SmartLink developed issue briefs organized around community development issues [housing, jobs, environment, stable families, education, health] and around specific giving strategies [direct service, advocacy, capacity building, organizing, new programs]. Elizabeth led the project from initial board goal-setting through website development, business planning, fundraising, marketing and implementation. In the process, she became expert in philanthropic approaches to building strong, prosperous neighborhoods and communities.

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Project Management

Frank Karel Fellowship in Public Interest Communications – Washington, DC

Elizabeth served as part-time Director of this unique, hands-on, experiential summer program designed to inspire first-generation undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to consider professional opportunities and possibilities in the field of Public Interest Communications. Public interest communications is an innovative field that pulls the spheres of media, policy, communities of influence, social marketing and activism to drive change. This fellowship is focused on translating personal passion for a more just world into communication skills that elicit social change.

SmartLink:  The Community Giving Resource – Aspen Institute and Neighborhood Funders Group – Washington, DC

Between 2002 and 2010, the consultant designed, directed and raised funds for the Community Giving Resource/SmartLink.  SmartLink was an on-line resource created especially for donors, foundation trustees and others who give locally, to neighborhoods and communities.  The site organized content around distinct giving strategies, highlighting examples of high performing nonprofit organizations alleviating poverty through direct service, community organizing, advovcacy.  The site included candid profiles of donors and small foundations from all over the country, as well as strategic issue briefs.  The consultant produced or oversaw the production of all on-line content as well as the strategy, fundraising and staffing of the project. 

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