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Woodruff Foundation Examined by Philanthropy Watchdog

NCRP’s Philamplify combines crowdsourcing with expert critiques in new website.

Screenshot from 'Will Atlanta's Quiet Changemaker Adapt to 21st Century Opportunities?' YouTube
Screenshot from 'Will Atlanta's Quiet Changemaker Adapt to 21st Century Opportunities?' YouTube
Patch Staff Report

On Tuesday, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) launched Philamplify, a new project aimed at bursting philanthropy’s “isolation bubble” by delivering honest feedback to grantmakers. Washington D.C.-based Philamplify pairs comprehensive assessments of prominent foundations with an interactive website that gathers user-generated commentary on foundation practices.

The Midtown-based Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Atlanta’s largest foundation with nearly $3 billion in assets, is one of the first three grantmakers examined for the initiative’s launch.

Written by philanthropic sector veteran Elizabeth Myrick, “Robert W. Woodruff Foundation: Will Atlanta’s Quiet Changemaker Adapt to 21st Century Opportunities?” highlights the organization’s strengths in fostering health, social service, educational and arts institutions in Atlanta. It also identifies ways it can improve its impact, by being more transparent about its goals and strategies, diversifying and expanding its board and staff, and by seeking new community partners in communities of color and other underserved communities. The report was also critical of the foundation’s high concentration of assets in stock of the Coca-Cola company, noting that such an approach is not common among foundations and carries significant risk.

“There is no doubt that the Woodruff Foundation is a cornerstone in Atlanta,” Aaron Dorfman, executive director of NCRP, said in a press release. “We believe that our recommendations will allow it to achieve an even deeper impact, to promote equity and strengthen the city’s social fabric for generations to come.”

In a letter responding to the assessment, Woodruff Foundation President P. Russell Hardin said,

“The Woodruff Foundation appreciates the NCRP’s dedication to furthering the positive impact of philanthropy by promoting openness and the public good. All of us in the field of philanthropy benefit from thoughtful analysis of divergent strategies and styles and an effort to measure results.”

The Woodruff Foundation, along with the Lumina Foundation for Education in Indianapolis and the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, were selected for the assessment because they are among the 100 top foundations in the U.S. Over time, Philamplify will evaluate other major foundations.

At the heart of Philamplify.org are individual foundation assessments conducted by top-notch researchers that provide a comprehensive examination of a foundation’s grantmaking and operations. These assessments incorporate feedback received from the foundation’s key stakeholders, including peer foundations, nonprofits, issue experts, members of the media and other individuals. All foundation assessment reports are made public on Philamplify.org where users can also weigh in.

Philamplify.org users have the option to remain anonymous, allowing all those whose lives are touched by philanthropy, from foundation leaders and staff to experts and community members, the opportunity to comment on and share their experiences with foundations in a safe space. In addition to providing comments on the assessed foundations, users are also encouraged to weigh in on issues affecting the philanthropic sector, and share stories about the impact of philanthropy in their lives and communities. The site, which is available free of charge, also enables individuals to reach out to leaders of foundations that have been assessed.

View Philamplify’s Woodruff Foundation video or visit http://philamplify.org/assessment/woodruff-foundation-assessment/ to learn more about the foundation’s impact.

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