Promoting Equity and Economic Inclusion in San Francisco
One of the nation’s largest community foundations, the San Francisco Foundation (SFF), has been using the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Results Count® leadership framework to accelerate measurable and equitable improvements in well-being for children, families and communities. A Results Count hub, SFF is not only integrating a results-driven approach throughout the organization, but it’s also sharing its tools and skills with partners in the Bay-area social sector.
“Results Count has been a game changer in our efforts to advance racial equity and economic inclusion for everyone in the Bay Area, particularly communities of color facing disinvestment and structural barriers,” says Fred Blackwell, CEO of SFF and a member of the 2007–2008 class of Casey’s Children and Family Fellowship®. “Results Count is helping our staff understand the shared result we are trying to achieve and each person’s contribution to that result.”
Planning for Change
The San Francisco Foundation’s framework includes a long-term population-level result: “All people living in the San Francisco Bay Area are economically secure, rooted in vibrant communities and engaged in civic life.” Toward this goal, SFF works with community leaders, nonprofits and donors, with a focus on low-income people and communities of color.
Perhaps the most significant example of embedding a results approach in SFF operations has been a planning process that provides guidance to achieve its long-term result in three-year increments. With representation from every department — including grant making, fundraising, communications, finance and human resources — the foundation identified five “levers” to advance its equity agenda:
- utilizing its grant making, relationships and leadership;
- raising money and influencing donors and grant makers, such as private and corporate foundations, government agencies and donor-advised funds;
- enhancing operational effectiveness and strengthening financial sustainability;
- using communications to influence public discourse and move people to action; and
- creating a culture that reflects internal equity and an employee experience aligned with the foundation’s external mission.
For each lever, there are interim results that SFF leaders believe represent tangible progress while allowing for learning, measurement and course corrections. For example, the grant-making lever includes a shorter-term goal of SFF being a leader in advancing significant gains in racial equity and economic inclusion across the region.
To accomplish this interim goal, SFF has identified a need to significantly increase its resources aligned with the equity agenda, with an emphasis on civically engaging and mobilizing communities of color and people with low incomes. They will measure progress by the amount and percentage of grant-making dollars committed to organizations led by and serving people of color.
In October 2021, SFF announced a $3.4 million initiative responding to the needs of Black-led nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area. The foundation will build on this model to support other communities of color.
Tools, Skills and Frameworks
The application of Results Count tools, skills and competencies is integral to SFF’s planning process and overall operations. As with every results-driven effort, data are central. For example, the first step in the planning process was creating a data briefing book with multiple sources of internal and external data, including survey data from key external stakeholders that informed each lever and strategy.
A fundamental Results Count skill is Results-Based Facilitation™, which ensures that meetings move from talk to action and holds participants accountable for advancing a body of work. Agenda items for SFF meetings have a desired result and participants are held accountable for their action commitments. “This has become a common practice,” says Brandi Howard, SFF’s chief of staff, “and it makes meetings a lot more productive.”
SFF also relies on a framework that guides organizations and sectors to take aligned actions to contribute at a scope and scale sufficient to make measurable progress toward the result. The foundation operationalized this framework to identify the internal collaboration and streamlining necessary to better leverage its strengths. For example, the Community Impact team has close relationships with the foundation’s grantees, while the Philanthropy and Gift Planning team builds relationships with donors. By finding ways to better align the work of the two teams, the foundation is building a bridge between donors and grantees and improving its overall fundraising efforts, all in service of devoting more resources to the foundation’s equity agenda.
Breaking Down Silos
Like other Results Count hubs, SFF seeks not only to embed a results orientation in its own operations, but also to spread this approach to other organizations in its network. When planning meetings with external partners, the foundation uses a results frame. For example, SFF’s FAITHS (Foundation Alliance with Interfaith to Heal Society) program, a multi-faith network of more than 600 congregations, faith-based agencies and community organizations in the Bay area, has worked with its member organizations to strengthen their policy advocacy for racial and economic equity. By introducing Results Count concepts, SFF has helped FAITHS partner organizations sharpen their focus on the policy results they seek and make progress toward enhancing their collective impact.
“Results Count helps break down silos, develop a shared result and identify each person’s contribution to that result,” says Howard. “The San Francisco Foundation has a pretty solid body of work, and Results Count has helped us better understand our role in achieving the outcomes we seek.”