What Makes Our Foundation Strong

By
Girl’s Best Friend Foundation
Chicago
Illinois
In November 2007, Chicago-based Exponent Philanthropy member Girl’s Best Friend Foundation (GBF) closed its doors. During its thirteen years, GBF had a powerful impact on the lives of girls and young women, and its trustees, staff, and partners learned a great deal along the way. Following is excerpted from the foundation's Web site: We practice what we preach: learn, practice, reflect, adapt, and ‘round again. Our organization’s development is not mysterious or unique, and any foundation can use these practices to move itself along.

Snapshot, 1994

As a new foundation, GBF is trying out a hands-on board approach. Our style is exuberant, ambitious, risk-taking. Our work in the emerging field of girls' human rights includes:
  • Expansive grantmaking, small grants, and an exclusive focus on girls-only programming
  • Ten percent add-ons to our grants, recognizing that evaluation takes resources
  • Thinking about girls’ grantmaking, girls on our board, and statewide research that includes girls

Snapshot, 2006

As a mature grantmaker, our style is more disciplined yet still ambitious. We still take smart risks to drive our mission forward, and we see and hear about the impact of our work in a field that has become stronger. We are:
  • Making more focused, layered, and larger grants
  • Continuing the ten percent evaluation add-on
  • Using an array of non-financial approaches to build grantee capacity and impact
  • Hosting a young women’s grantmaking and social change program
  • Using research we commissioned to illuminate best practices of girls’ programs and suggest how they can be strengthened
  • Beginning a large-scale organizational evaluation