GVSU Launches Philanthropy Journal

February 15, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership is about to become a publisher.

A new peer-reviewed, quarterly journal called The Foundation Review is expected to debut later in 2008, published under the center’s auspices and edited by Teri Behrens, a former director of evaluation at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Behrens is “on loan” from the Kellogg Foundation, which also provided $30,000 to help get the journal off the ground.

Behrens said The Foundation Review will provide grant-makers a place to share information about what works and what doesn’t in the task of evaluating the programs that they fund.

“We do all these evaluations, get all these evaluation reports, and we have nowhere to share them with the community,” Behrens said.

“The papers will gather up those efforts — what did we learn from this and what did we learn about how to be better grant-makers. We’ll be looking for evaluation experts, but also foundation staff and nonprofit leaders carrying out this work to be peer reviewers. We’re looking for very practically oriented articles, not ones that are heavy on theory.”

Johnson Center Executive Director Kathy Agard said she’s pleased GVSU can provide a home for the new publication. “The journal really reflects the Johnson Center, because we are engaged deeply in applied research and in understanding how the nonprofit and philanthropic worlds work and making that available to make it more efficient and effective.

“It’s a fulfillment of a dream in terms of the mission of the Johnson Center.”

Evaluation is a major issue for foundations and other grant-makers that are vitally interested in making sure their investments in nonprofit entities and programs are being used wisely. Behrens said she is recruiting experts in the topic to serve on The Foundation Review’s editorial board, including Michael Quinn Patton of Minnesota, a program evaluation consultant and author, a former professor at the University of Minnesota; Hallie Preskill, author and professor at the Claremont Graduate University in California; and Patricia Patrizi, principal of consultants Patrizi and Associates, former director of evaluation for the Pew Charitable Trusts and former faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. Patton and Preskill are both former presidents of the American Evaluation Association.

While the editorial board will provide overall direction and guidance, Behrens said she is recruiting foundation staff members and nonprofit leaders to review the articles. The first deadline for article submission is March 1, with publication set for November or December, Behrens said.

Behrens said the journal will be published on paper for three to five years before a companion World Wide Web site is launched. That will give it a chance to become established before going virtual, she said.

Response from the philanthropic community has been positive, Behrens said.

“There’s a lot of push from foundation stakeholders for more transparency about what they do,” she added. “Foundations have to understand they have to be more willing to learn from each other and share what they’ve learned. They can’t fulfill their missions if they don’t learn how to do it better.”

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