Exponent Philanthropy (formerly known as the Association of Small Foundations or ASF) is a membership organization that provides resources and connections to help funders make the most of the minutes they have and the dollars they give. Exponent Philanthropy (EP) amplifies and celebrates the vital work of a diverse group of givers, who unite through their unique style of giving that is lean, agile, responsive, passionate, and personal. Members include individuals and organizations that give annually to more than one recipient, including those who use foundations, donor-advised funds, giving circles, and other giving vehicles to carry out their philanthropy.
EP recognized that its members operated across a broad continuum with respect to the effect they were having through their funding. In response, it embarked upon its Getting to Impact initiative, an effort to equip its members with information and inspiration to achieve greater impact in their grantmaking. EP developed a curriculum of primers, seminars, workbooks, and discussion guides designed specifically for small foundations. It created an Impact Working Group, comprised of EP members (including Clark McCain of the Coleman Foundation) who shaped the development of these products, many of which assisted funders to thoughtfully focus their grantmaking through non-complex research and planning processes.
In December, 2012, the Coleman Foundation awarded $25,000 to Exponent Philanthropy (then ASF) to advance its Getting to Impact initiative. As part of the effort, Exponent developed the "10-Minute Impact Assessment", a tool which allows funders to quickly determine where they stand on the impact continuum and receive guidance on how to make progress towards even greater impact. The tool includes 25 questions in five sections which give foundation decision-makers (board members, senior staff) a framework to discuss the impact they are having in their work. Results are scored on a scale which provides directional guidance as to areas for improvement such as focus, planning and learning. A companion guide helps to indicate next steps as well as provides stories of foundations on the path towards impact.
- Between October, 2013, when the tool was put online, and July, 2014, it has been downloaded 456 times.
- Additionally, 183 individuals have used the tool at in-person meetings associated with Exponent Philanthropy
- More than 80% of users surveyed indicated the tool accurately assessed strengths and areas for improvement
- More than 85% of users surveyed indicated the tool provided insights for focusing their foundation's effort on greater impact
- More than 85% of users surveyed indicated the tool inspired them to initiate conversations on impact with their board
Key Lesson Learned: Resources are important but conversations about impact are critical
The inital intent for the 10-Minute Impact Assessment was to connect those using it to resources to take action to improve their grantmaking. The launch of the tool indicated that the most valuable outcome from it was its ability to be a conversation-starter. Users commented, "it's a powerful tool to complete as an entire board to see where responses of board members are similar and different," and "it can be an eye-opening, even humbling experience."