About this Assessment
The California Endowment (TCE) is actively moving the needle toward health equity through its support of national health reform, changes in school discipline policies and focused attention on the urgent needs of boys and men of color. Its primary grantmaking strategy, Building Healthy Communities (BHC), funds both statewide policy advocacy and targeted investments in 14 communities across California. By investing in efforts to build community power and also directly engaging in advocacy, TCE exemplifies strategic, social justice philanthropy at its best. However, some of TCE’s grantmaking practices limit its grantees’ effectiveness. To expand its impact, TCE needs to provide more general operating support, build nonprofit advocacy capacity, increase transparency around its intentions and outcomes, directly involve grantees in strategy development and better align the large foundation’s grant investments across program areas.
The assessment of The California Endowment was conducted by Gita Gulati-Partee.
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Key Finding and Recommendations
TCE is already a national leader in advancing equity and justice, resulting in more organized and healthier communities. TCE should continue funding marginalized communities, systemic change strategies and multi-year grants, and use the foundation’s influence to help shape public policy and the strategies of other foundations.
No matter its size and effectiveness, TCE cannot advocate on all issues. That’s why it’s important that TCE also fund the capacity of nonprofits to be strong and effective advocates at all levels of government. Having a robust nonprofit advocacy infrastructure means that TCE can focus its efforts without worry that other issues are falling by the wayside.
This will help nonprofit grantees build their capacity and have the flexibility to engage in a full range of advocacy activities. Also, TCE can ensure that grant agreements do not include language that unnecessarily inhibits nonprofit advocacy.
TCE’s goals are ambitious and its strategies are complex. The foundation needs to explain more clearly what it hopes to accomplish and how it makes decisions. For example, (a) how all the pieces of the Building Healthy Communities strategy fit together; (b) why the 14 communities were chosen and how their work supports communities not directly funded; and (c) the rationale behind TCE’s focus on systemic support for boys and men of color.
While grantees regularly give feedback to inform learning and evaluation, TCE needs greater grantee involvement on the front end of crafting strategies. This includes aligning foundation efforts with realistic community outcomes and ensuring nonprofit capacity building remains a priority for the foundation.
Internal efforts to coordinate strategies among place-based initiatives and the statewide advocacy program hold promise. TCE can also ensure program- and mission-related investment strategies better align with and support the work in the 14 local communities.