A Foundation’s View On Outcomes

The Central Florida Foundation (CFF) is a public grant-making foundation that serves as a trusted philanthropic home for more than 400 charitable funds throughout Central Florida.   

Convergent has had the good fortune to get to know CFF better over the past several months, and we have learned that our organizations share a similar belief that highlighting outcomes/Return on Investment is a powerful nonprofit fundraising strategy.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Michelle Chapin, Vice President of Community Investment at CFF, about how her organization uses an outcomes-focused approach to funding and evaluation.

CNS: When did CFF first begin to shift its focus to outcomes?

CFF: Our foundation has always been focused on outcomes with grant-making. However, the launch of our Nonprofit Search more than five years ago took this a step further. It provides a vehicle for nonprofits to not only describe the measures they use to evaluate their programs, but also the impact they are making in the areas and communities they work in.

How does CFF currently use/evaluate outcomes?

We use outcomes to determine the success of our grant-making, as well as to identify opportunities to leverage other investors or identify collaborations that can result in greater impact. We also use outcome measures to inform and educate investors and philanthropists across the region about which nonprofits are providing the most effective services.

What types of outcomes are you (and your funders) looking for and/or are most impressed by?

Simply put, we want to see the movement of a “social needle” or solution to a problem. We recognize that the timeline is often several years for any true impact to be realized. We also pay close attention to the identification of “source problems”….and which innovative approaches nonprofits are using to address them.

What assistance do you provide to nonprofits to help them identify and communicate their outcomes?

This is at the very core of what CFF does. From the outset, we develop meaningful evaluation questions about the grant—and what the intended outcomes are—to provide us with the information we need to predict success. We then ask that nonprofits report their outcomes in the Nonprofit Search portal for others nonprofits to see. We strive to be partners with our grantees in achieving the most effective investments in their communities.

How does CFF see outcomes playing into funding in the future, i.e. are there certain outcomes that appeal more to funders, ways of communicating outcomes that seem to resonate more, are they becoming more or less important in the overall messaging/marketing of nonprofits, etc.?

We see outcomes as the way to tell a story of impact. Funders look for nonprofits that are innovative and entrepreneurial in their approach to solving a problem, and those that can demonstrate sustainability.

Across the Central Florida region there is an appetite among public sector funders, donors, philanthropists, and foundations to see substantial gains in ending homelessness, improving the performance and employability of students in the “cradle-to-career” continuum, and improving the quality of the arts community. Identifying, measuring, and scaling outcomes though collective impact and collaboration is a path driven by measuring the right outcomes.

Convergent has also been seeing this same appetite for outcomes that Michelle mentions throughout the country and across a wide spectrum of nonprofit funders. And just as an outcomes focused approach to funding is not new for the Central Florida Foundation, neither is it a new approach to funding for Convergent’s clients. For years, our clients have been benefitting from the results an outcomes focused approach to funding. As they have learned, the more you are able to lift up your outcomes in a transparent, meaningful way, the more money you can raise.