Strategies to Achieve Social Impact
TCC Group Strategy Programs/Grants Management Capacity Building Evaluation

Working with Philanthropies

TCC Group helps philanthropic partners of all shapes and sizes achieve greater social impact. Our broad knowledge of philanthropic sector trends and strategies is informed by close to 40 years of experience spanning work with private, public, community, and family foundations, as well as work with sector-serving organizations such as affinity groups, field conveners, and donor collaboratives. Across diverse clients, our services include:

  • Developing foundation and program strategy
  • Assessing, researching, and identifying investment opportunities
  • Supporting collaborative alignment
  • Fostering strategic learning and capacity building
  • Managing and advising foundation operations, governance, and grantmaking

We seek the active participation of our clients in all of our work, tailoring our collaborative approach to each client’s desire and capacity for engagement.

Our philanthropy consulting staff are incisive strategists, critical thinkers, and facilitative leaders, many of whom joined TCC Group after serving as foundation directors, program officers, and board chairs. While each member of our staff brings particular content expertise, our team as a whole is equipped to work across a diversity of areas, having supported grantmaking efforts in education, children and youth, health, human rights, women’s and LGBTQ justice, racial equity, global development and sustainability, criminal justice and immigration reform, and the arts – to name just a few.

We bring a variety of skills to our work: research, critical analysis, deep listening, problem-solving, facilitative decision-making, and a hefty dose of emotional intelligence. Recognizing that achieving change often requires foundations to collaborate with actors across the social sector, our philanthropy consultants typically also tap the expertise of TCC Group’s evaluation, nonprofit, and corporate citizenship staff, deepening understanding of the challenges our foundation clients face, and broadening thinking about opportunities for change.

We believe strongly that philanthropy can be a powerful tool for social change. We strive to encourage philanthropic practices that embrace:

  • Respectful relationships with grantees
  • Transparency
  • Cultural competence
  • Partnerships with like-minded funder peers
  • Sustained investment
  • Reflection and learning
  • Strategic clarity balanced with the capacity for adaptive change

We welcome opportunities to bring our best thinking and learning to our philanthropic clients in order to achieve enhanced impact and lasting change. We also strive to contribute to the philanthropy sector more widely, producing knowledge resources and tools informed by our history of experience with diverse foundation types and partners.

What We Do

Strategy:

  • Strategic planning (both institution-wide and program-specific)
  • Program and grants strategy development and review
  • Development of organizational mission and vision
  • Landscape research, stakeholder interviews, and issue analysis
  • Guidance on foundation governance, structure, and staffing
  • Identification and design of funder alignment and collaboration opportunities
  • Facilitation of foundation board and staff learning and decision-making processes

Foundation Management and Grantmaking:

  • Management of all foundation administrative operations
  • Preparation and oversight of board dockets and meetings
  • Coordination with accountants, attorneys, and philanthropic advisors
  • Development and management of grantmaking portfolios
  • Grantee background research, due diligence, and site visits
  • Design and administration of LOI, RFP, proposal, and reporting systems and processes
  • Grantee report review and summaries
  • Issuance and monitoring of grant awards
  • Routine grantee communication and assistance

Capacity Building:

  • Administration of TCC Group’s Foundation Core Capacity Assessment Tool (FCCAT) to assess foundation capacity strengths and challenges
  • Facilitation of funder learning and capacity priority-setting
  • Design of capacity-building programs for grantee cohorts
  • Design and facilitation of multiparty capacity-building cohorts with funders, nonprofits, and other social sector actors

Strategic Learning and Evaluation:

  • Design and facilitation of funder and grantee learning processes and venues
  • Development of learning agendas
  • Assessment of foundation programs
  • Formative and summative evaluation of grantmaking initiatives, strategies, and capacity-building programs

Work In Practice

Supporting powerful funder collaboration: When funders align or pool their material and knowledge resources, they increase their potential to leverage institutional priorities, expand reach, and amplify impact.

  • In 2015-2016, TCC provided strategic services to the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative (ECFC), a network of local and national foundations which has served its diverse national and local foundation members as both a vital learning community and an incubator of pooled funds for over 20 years. Aiming to expand its impact and influence in a policy climate favorable to early childhood reforms, ECFC engaged TCC Group to propel and complete a strategic planning process preliminary initiated by the Collaborative’s members. TCC’s work involved diagnostic research exploring ECFC assets and distinctive perch; stakeholder and funder interviews assessing needs and opportunities in the early childhood field; and identification of potential partnerships and scaling strategies. Informed by organizational assessment and landscape research, TCC facilitated a planning retreat and decision-making process through which members clarified core goals, strategies, and program priorities; agreed on new mission and vision language; clarified governance structures; and established new guidelines for membership recruitment and engagement. TCC was subsequently engaged to draft the Collaborative’s written strategic plan and complementary operational guidance documents. Revitalized and energized, ECFC members are now poised to engage funders within and beyond the early childhood arena to advance an equity-focused, multi-issue parent and early childhood agenda to ensure that all children can learn and thrive.

Supporting effective strategic planning: Foundations often undertake formal strategic planning when they hit a recognizable milestone, experience a sizeable shift in resources, or undergo significant internal changes.

  • In 2016, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation celebrated its tenth anniversary and engaged TCC Group to lead strategic planning efforts, in close collaboration with its staff and Board. One of the largest health funders in the “iron belt” region of New York State, this foundation was formed from the acquisition of a not-for-profit HMO by a not-for-profit health plan. Committed to addressing the health needs of all members of the Greater Rochester community, including the most vulnerable, the Foundation wished to reflect on its impact and consider entirely new approaches to meet the community’s pressing needs. TCC Group’s work has included extensive internal and external research, including an institutional diagnostic; an analysis of health foundation trends, giving strategies, and models; close partnership with program staff; and facilitation of numerous Board learning and decision-making sessions. Through working together, the Foundation affirmed its commitment to addressing the socioeconomic determinants of health, and accordingly adopted a new frame (the “health impact pyramid”) that describes the impact of different types of public health interventions. This conceptual lens provides a guide for the Foundation’s proactive grantmaking efforts going forward.
  • TCC Group facilitated a strategic planning process for the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation, which is based in Hong Kong. Reflecting the interests of its founder, the Foundation supports programs in in Chinese Art and Buddhism in several countries around the world. As the foundation was anticipating changes in both board and staff, it decided that it was an appropriate time to step back, look at the Foundation’s programs and accomplishments, and help the board determine how it could continue to meet the living founder’s interests, while also developing new programs and structures that allow for the involvement of current and future generations. Informed by strategic planning, the Board decided to spin off two programs that were extremely expensive to run and free up funds to expand other, more successful efforts.

Supporting promising program strategy: Portfolio areas within larger foundation institutions undertake planning propelled by internal and external conditions as well.

  • In the summer of 2016, the Open Society Foundations’ Global Drug Policy Program (GDPP) engaged TCC Group to facilitate the first stage of its multi-part strategy development process, propelled both by OSF’s standard strategic review requirements and by openings born of a recently completed United Nation Special Session which had been the focal point of much Program work over several years. TCC Group’s work involves assessing the drug policy landscape over the next ten years; identifying areas of promising opportunity; refining staff priorities for the GDPP’s Board’s consideration (including key themes and issues, policy objectives, key partnerships, regional focus, and funder roles); facilitating staff consensus on how best to move forward; and producing vision and strategy documents delineating the portfolio’s broad vision and strategic priorities for the Board’s consideration.

Supporting efficient foundation management: The overwhelming majority of foundations in the U.S. have no paid staff or institutional infrastructure, yet they need efficient and effective grantmaking processes and systems to advance their social mission and meet their annual payout requirements.

To meet this need, TCC Group provides overall foundation and grants management services, serving as the institutional “home” for foundations that lack independent operational systems and structure. Our tailored, individualized, high touch services for clients entail routine interfacing with foundation trustees and (for family foundations) Next Gen committees. TCC provides an array of services, in some cases focusing on administration and operations (working in partnership with a philanthropic advisor, who focuses programmatically), and in others, handling all management needs while serving as outsourced program staff as well. TCC is responsible for awarding close to $20M/year on behalf of the foundations under our management, supporting such diverse issues as women’s health and reproductive rights, gun violence reform, immigrants’ rights, health and human services, and protecting sea turtles.

  • One of TCC Group’s longstanding family foundation clients is the Ohrstrom Foundation, a $100 million Virginia-based family foundation. Since 2005, TCC Group has handled all programmatic and administrative functions, including assisting with board restructuring and by-laws revision as family involvement and needs have changed. Our work focuses mainly on managing the Foundation’s competitive (non-discretionary) grantmaking program, which awards grants each year to organizations that build strong and healthy families and communities and/or protect cultural and natural resources, primarily in the geographic area where most family members live. We also work closely with the family groups (such as Next Gen members) that comprise the foundation, to help them develop policies and guidelines for their individual grantmaking allocations.

For more information about TCC Group’s client services and knowledge resources for philanthropies, contact Melinda Fine, Ed.D., Director of Philanthropy and Strategic Partnerships.

In Practice

One of the largest health funders in the “iron belt” region of New York, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation (GRHF) is a conversion foundation committed to addressing pressing community needs, including those of the most vulnerable. GRHF engaged TCC Group for strategic planning services which include extensive external research, institutional diagnosis, health foundation trends analysis, and facilitation of Board and staff decision-making processes. Preliminary outcomes include the Board’s adoption of a new analytic framework highlighting the social determinants of health and guiding proactive grantmaking efforts going forward.

A network of local and national foundations functioning as a learning community and an incubator of pooled funds, the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative (ECFC) engaged TCC Group for strategic planning support to strengthen the Collaborative’s value add to this fast-growing field. Research exploring field gaps and opportunities, ECFC’s perceived value, and funder growth and alignment opportunities, yielded clarified goals, strategies, program priorities, governance and membership structures. TCC also drafted ECFC’s strategic plan and operational guidance documents, positioning the revitalized Collaborative to advance its equity-focused agenda so all children can learn and thrive.

TCC’s comprehensive and tailored foundation management services include longstanding support for the Ohrstrom Foundation, a $100 million Virginia-based family foundation for which TCC handles all programmatic and administrative functions. Services include managing the Foundation’s competitive grantmaking program; guiding family Trustees and Next Gen members; developing policies and guidelines for individual grantmaking allocations; and assisting with board restructuring and by-laws revision as family involvement and needs evolve.