INDIANAPOLIS — America’s 86,192 charitable foundations frequently receive both praise and criticism for their efforts to create change. Are they really making a difference? Former Rockefeller Foundation executive, foundation scholar and Columbia University Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs Kenneth Prewitt will explore the topic “Can Foundations Know If They Are Making a Difference? Navigating between Ivory Towers and Performance Metrics” during a talk at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis next week.
The program, presented under the auspices of the Stead Family Chair in International Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, will begin with a 5 p.m. reception followed by Prewitt’s lecture at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the lower level of the Lilly Auditorium at University Library, 755 W. Michigan St., on the IUPUI campus.
Prewitt’s talk will be followed by a panel discussion with local philanthropy leaders and faculty, including:
- Dewayne Matthews, vice president of strategy development, Lumina Foundation
- Christie Gillespie, vice president of community impact, United Way of Central Indiana
- Catherine Herrold, assistant professor of philanthropic studies, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
Prewitt, the former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, argues that it is increasingly important for foundations to effectively track, measure and share whether the work they fund actually helps make a difference, and he deems insufficient the current reporting methods used by U.S. foundations.
Prewitt previously has written that “significant, specific achievements can be attributed to foundation grantmaking” but also notes, “Although not wishing to subtract from the worthiness and social significance of these achievements, skeptics might ask … how we can assess the magnitude of social change in relation to the funds spent.'”
“The debate about whether and how foundations’ impact can be measured is a long-standing but important conversation,” said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the school. “Ken Prewitt’s research, thought leadership and insightful questioning of how we assess foundations provide context to help philanthropic institutions evaluate their impact and consider whether adjusting or rethinking metrics could enhance the services they fund and provide.”
The event is free and open to the public; RSVPs are requested.