Articles by Effective Communities partners Steven E. Mayer and/or Susan Doherty are available from this site. They are grouped into these four headings:

  • Philanthropy, Racial Equality and Social Justice
  • Nonprofit Management, Evaluation, and Organizational Effectiveness
  • Community Foundations, Neighbourhoods, and Community Development
  • Youth Leadership, Education, and School Reform

Also, please note blog posts at


Pathways to Progress: Focusing Philanthropy on Racial Equity and Social Justice (pdf)

This paper is the culmination of five years work evaluating Ford Foundation’s portfolio of grants, “Community Philanthropy and Racial Equity in the American South.” It is based on reflective conversations with nearly 100 philanthropic organizations operating in both African American and White American settings. It presents a framework – six pathways to progress – that allows practitioners to use their philanthropic resources more strategically, with the goal of “moving the needles” that indicate how well public systems and private markets perform for different groups of people. It presents a set of promising practices, with examples from the field, and links to practitioner organizations. It includes benchmarks by which initiatives to reduce inequity can be measured. It links to short essays and tools allowing you to go deeper on key topics, including papers written by our team including Betty Emarita and Vanessa Stephens as part of this project.

Papers from the project, “Community Philanthropy and Racial Equity in the American South,” sponsored by Ford Foundation:

Op-Ed: Philanthropy Must Address Structural Inequities (pdf)

By Steven E. Mayer. Until foundations address the structural inequities that contribute significantly to human suffering, their own effectiveness will be limited. … Philanthropic organizations can and must put their shoulders to the wheels. Until it does, and becomes more relevant to today’s society, we will continue to see mean-spirited systems and markets that contribute to substantial human suffering, and highly mediocre levels of philanthropic organization performance. Jan 9, 2008.

Introduction and Overview to Three Tools to Assist Progress (pdf)

By Steven E. Mayer, Vanessa McKendall Stephens, and Betty Emarita. Sept 2006.

Moving Past the Silence: A Tool for Negotiating Reflective Conversations About Race (pdf)

By Vanessa McKendall Stephens. Sept 2006.

Becoming a Catalyst for Social Justice: A Tool for Aligning Internal Operations to Produce Progress (pdf) By Betty Emarita. Sept 2006.

Choosing Promising Ideas and Proposals: A Tool for Giving that Closes the Gaps (pdf) By Steven E. Mayer. Sept 2006.

Community Philanthropy and Racial Equity: What Progress Looks Like(pdf)

This report examines how community philanthropy can deepen social justice work, especially in the American South. Supported by the Ford Foundation.

Gaps in Racial Equity, and Strategies for Reducing Them (pdf)

By Steven E. Mayer. An evidence-based inventory of gaps and disparities, plus what we mean by “gaps” and “disparities.” Also, technical and human issues in understanding gaps and disparities, and a five-step strategy for reducing gaps.

Providing Culturally Appropriate Technical Assistance (pdf)

By Betty Emarita. Technical assistance has a cultural viewpoint, acknowledged or not. Getting the right kind of assistance can make all the difference, and the wrong kind can be harmful. Examples of appropriate assistance. Why this is important to effective grantmaking.

Relationships as Infrastructure in Southern African American Communities (pdf)

By Betty Emarita. In human society, and in Southern African American communities especially, relationships serve as an essential infrastructure for getting things done. An example from the Black Belt Community Foundation in Alabama. Why this is important to philanthropy.

Announcing the 2009 Effies Award Winners (pdf)

Winners have been chosen! This year’s open competition provides recognition for effective uses of philanthropy to advance social justice and racial equity. Winners include: Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, Arkansas Public Policy Panel, Humboldt Area Foundation, Norfolk Foundation, Parkersburg Area Foundation, and Headwaters Fund for Social Justice.

Community Philanthropy and Racial Equity: Signs of Progress (pdf)

A two-page adaptation of highlights from this report.


Wanted: Better Evaluation Practices for a Better Philanthropy (pdf)

By Steven E. Mayer. Philanthropy, by definition, is a noble endeavor. And yet, people want to know their gifts are in fact helping to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, there’s a big disconnect between the knowledge of results we crave and the “knowledge” we get back from formal evaluation inquiries. The problems with evaluation are rooted in problems with philanthropy. To improve the quality of philanthropy and evaluation, we have to reframe both. Reprinted from NCRP’s November 2010 newsletter.

Common Barriers to Effectiveness in the Independent Sector

This paper, presented to Independent Sector, describes three common barriers challenging nonprofits and foundations: dominance of the deficits model over the assets model, the dysfunctional distinction between “grantmaker and grantseeker,” and racism and other failures to be inclusive. Available from Rainbow Research, Inc. (

Building Community Capacity: How Different Groups Contribute (pdf)

This paper, adapted from Building Community Capacity: The Potential of Community Foundations, describes how different groups, such as families, neighborhood organizations, local government, and others, can contribute to the community’s ability to address its problems.

Saving the Babies: A Clash of Philanthropic Approaches (pdf)

By Steven E. Mayer. A parable is used to illustrate a key dilemma in philanthropy: Do we use our charitable resources to save drowning babies one at a time, or do we look upstream for the causes of casualties and invest in solutions? Or both.

The Assets Model of Community Development

This paper presents the basics of the assets model as formulated by John McKnight and contrasts it with the deficits model, along with implications for funders. Available from Rainbow Research, Inc. (

What is a “Disadvantaged Group”? (pdf)

A short, historical paper serving up a digestible analysis to help a program design or grant review committee recognize disadvantagement in the proposals it receives.

Results of an Inquiry into Capacity Building Programs for Nonprofit Programs (pdf)

This paper summarizes what we have learned about the effectiveness of foundation efforts to build capacity in nonprofits, expressed as lessons learned.

Organizational Capacity Building: Areas for Evaluation (pdf)

This paper offers a framework for assessing organizational capacity and forms the basis of our Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool©.

Building Community Capacity with Evaluation Activities That Empower

A chapter in the best-selling “Empowerment Evaluation: Knowledge and Tools for Self-assessment and Accountability (Fetterman, Kaftarian, and Wandersman; Sage, 1996). Available from Sage Publishing (

Inclusiveness Assessment Tool

This tool was developed for the United Way of Minneapolis to help it and its member organizations make progress in becoming more racially inclusive and culturally competent. Available from Rainbow Research, Inc. ( 


Successful Neighborhood Self-Help: Some Lessons Learned (pdf)

Lessons learned from the experiences of 51 neighborhood organizations in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and their suburbs are profiled in this handbook. Lessons are grouped into two areas: Involving Residents, and Organizing and Governing the Work. One of the first lessons learned-style evaluations ever.

Community Philanthropy: Strategies for Impacting Vulnerable Populations (pdf)

By Steven E. Mayer. A paper written while Scholar in Residence, Center for Community Philanthropy, Clinton School of Public Service, University of Arkansas, Little Rock. Dated May 1, 2009.

Where’s the Community in Community Foundations? (pdf)

This Op-Ed piece written for the Chronicle of Philanthropy questions the need for modern American community foundations to mimic private financial services institutions, and proposes three avenues for innovation.

Building Community Capacity: The Potential of Community Foundations (pdf, 1994)

This small book summarizes the experiences of 18 community foundations participating in the Ford/MacArthur Leadership Program for Community Foundations between 1987 and 1993. The initiative, one of the best ever for stimulating useful growth in smaller community foundations, had many design features key to its successful results. The book details these features and contains lessons for growing useful community foundations and making them useful to communities.

Supporting Low-Income Neighborhood Organizations: A Guide for Community Foundations

This guidebook gives advice on making grants and providing other kinds of support to low-income neighborhood organizations. Available from Rainbow Research, Inc. (

Community Philanthropy in Central/Eastern Europe

A primer for people who are interested in learning about community philanthropy organizations and the role they can play in strengthening communities, set in Central/Eastern Europe. Available from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (

A Statement of Values, Accomplishments, and Intentions of the Twin Cities Neighborhood Movement (pdf)

A discussion paper prepared for the Twin Cities’ Center for Neighborhoods as part of its Neighborhood Futures Initiative. Five core values are presented, with accomplishments and challenges. Available from the Center for Neighborhoods (

Community Leadership Initiatives: Expected Outcomes (pdf)

In this paper, Steven Mayer presents three excellent outcome areas desired of community leadership initiatives: increased commitment, increased resources, and increased skills available to address issues and opportunities. Based in work done for the Ford Foundation’s Leadership Program for Community Foundations.

Better Together: Religious Institutions as Partners in Community-Based Development

Key learnings from a national initiative on how religious institutions of various kinds can contribute to low-income housing and community economic development efforts. Available from Rainbow Research, Inc. (


A Model for Community-Based Youth Leadership Development (pdf)

This paper describes a model program to develop knowledge, skills, and understanding youth need to become effective leaders within culturally diverse communities.

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