In days of scarce resources and seemingly endless philanthropic choices, family foundations and funds can frequently feel overwhelmed by options and unsure where to best place their philanthropic bets.  Many funders wisely choose a focus area for funding, and then proceed to investigate – or be approached by – any number of apparently worthy organizations to support within that field. Most frequently, the questions that are asked are ones of organizational strength and track record: which among many groups are the best?

While these are crucial questions for any funder to answer, this approach often leaves out a fundamental question: how do I know that the strategy I am pursuing is the one where there is real need, and where my philanthropic dollars will be best utilized? How do I not re-invent the wheel, and how do I find those strategies where my scarce dollars can be most highly leveraged? Assessing an organization as a stand-alone entity or even in comparison to others in the field begs the question of what the larger framework for funding should be and how a given strategy fits against the broader funding landscape.

Read the full article about field scans by Christine Sherry at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.