Frequently Asked Questions
- Why did GEO launch this initiative?
- How can my organization become engaged?
- Who are GEO's partners in this work?
- How does GEO define scale?
- How can I determine whether Scaling What Works is relevant for my organization?
- What is the Social Innovation Fund?
- What is the nature of the relationship between GEO and the Corporation for National and Community Service?
- Is GEO providing any support to the unsuccessful applicants to the Social Innovation Fund?
Through the Scaling What Works initiative, GEO has the chance to extend the reach, learning and impact of the Social Innovation Fund far beyond the direct participants to contribute to the effectiveness of a greater number of private and public sector grantmakers. We expect that our work to learn from these efforts — and share our findings with the field of philanthropy — will help to develop a much larger pool of funders who are ready, willing and able to support the capacity and growth of high-performing nonprofits.
GEO focuses on supporting the work of grantmakers and promotes learning about strategies and practices that increase grantmaker effectiveness and nonprofit performance. Through Scaling What Works, GEO will:
- help grantmakers define their possible roles in the context of the Social Innovation Fund and scaling impact,
- identify the skills and practices necessary to fulfill those roles, and
- support skill building and practice adoption.
Scaling What Works provides trainings, networking opportunities and a variety of other tools and resources to a broad range of grantmakers and public sector funders looking to support high-performing nonprofits. These include the following.
- Workshops, in collaboration with a variety of external partners and regional grantmaker associations, to support and guide grantmakers in their financial assessments of grantees that are looking to scale impact, and to help grantmakers invest in their grantees' evaluation and learning activities and build an evidence base.
- A series of briefing papers on topics and questions related to scaling social impact.
- A collection of funder guides sharing lessons learned from the experience of grantmakers that are directly participating in the Social Innovation Fund.
- GEO-organized topical conferences on topics such as collective approaches to learning and growing impact in a networked world. We also hold a national biennial conference that attracts more than 500 grantmakers that are dedicated to smarter grantmaking and better results.
- Speaking engagements and regional funder convenings for organizations interested, but not directly participating, in the Social Innovation Fund, where attendees have the opportunity to meet some of the intermediaries, learn about their progress to date, and identify ways to engage in or support their projects.
We are developing new Scaling What Works resources and opportunities on a regular basis. To learn about future opportunities or to suggest other ways in which you would like to become involved, please sign up for our e-newsletter or send us a suggestion here.
Additionally, as a powerful coalition of more than 2,600 individual members representing 350 grantmaking organizations committed to building strong and effective nonprofit organizations, GEO also offers a variety of learning and networking opportunities. Learn more about these events, among other benefits of GEO membership here.
GEO believes in the power of collaboration and recognizes the need for others' expertise to deliver on the full potential of Scaling What Works. We have several current partners and will occasionally post requests for proposals for consultants and partners on this website. To be notified of these periodic opportunities, please sign up for our updates using this form.
In the field of philanthropy, many think of scale exclusively in terms of larger organizations and nonprofit programs replicated in more sites. These approaches are important but are not the only ones. What is most important about going to scale is not the size of the organization or initiative but the results it achieves. Scaling impact is about leveraging resources and relationships to achieve more and better results that translate into significant and sustained benefits for people, their communities and our planet. Scale can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including some that do not require a major expansion in organizational size. Through Scaling What Works, GEO hopes to raise awareness of and share lessons from the approaches funders and nonprofits use to broaden their impact.
To explore and expand upon current approaches to growing social impact and invite wider participation in the scaling conversation, we developed a series of briefing papers, the first of which, What Do We Mean by Scale?, dives more deeply into GEO's definition.
5. How can I determine whether Scaling What Works is relevant for my organization?
Like GEO, Scaling What Works promotes grantee-centered philanthropic practices that lead to more effective results. And while we support grantmakers that are receiving Social Innovation Fund awards and supporting funded projects or are applying to future rounds, we also engage funders that simply want to gain the skills needed to broaden the impact of high-performing nonprofits.
Rather than focus on specific grantmaking priorities (e.g., K–12 education or poverty alleviation), Scaling What Works focuses on broader philanthropic practice, including ways to work collaboratively to achieve goals, such as through co-funding or capital aggregation models, or how to build the evaluation capacity of grantees to understand and improve their performance. These topics are relevant to all grantmakers, regardless of their funding interests, size, type or location.
Scaling What Works and the larger GEO community offer grantmakers compelling resources, tools and convenings that build connections, foster dialogue and facilitate learning alongside like-minded peers.
6. What is the Social Innovation Fund?
The Social Innovation Fund is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service intended to improve the lives of people in low-income communities. It does so by mobilizing public and private resources to grow promising, innovative community-based solutions that have evidence of compelling impact in three areas of priority need: economic opportunity, healthy futures and youth development.
The Social Innovation Fund awards funds to grantmaking institutions ("intermediaries") with a track record of identifying, supporting and investing in the growth of promising nonprofit organizations. Each grantmaker is required to match its federal grant (grants ranged from $1 million to $10 million each in the initial round) dollar for dollar, in cash, and then re-grant the funding to nonprofit organizations it has selected through an open and competitive process.
The nonprofit "subgrantees" selected by the intermediaries also are required to generate a dollar for dollar cash match for their grants. As a result, the Social Innovation Fund provides leverage by aggregating philanthropic and government resources so that the most effective approaches can be expanded to reach more people in need and key lessons can be captured and broadly shared. To learn more, visit www.NationalService.gov/Innovation.
7. What is the nature of the relationship between GEO and the Corporation for National and Community Service?
The Corporation for National and Community Service, a government grantmaker, is a GEO member, however GEO has no formal or contractual relationship with CNCS and receives no funds from the agency. GEO's Scaling What Works initiative, supported by 22 private foundations, is closely aligned with the goals of the Social Innovation Fund, which is administered by CNCS. Our relationship with the Social Innovation Fund is a mutually supportive one in which we both maintain independence. We do communicate and explore opportunities to collaborate regularly.
8. Is GEO providing any support to the unsuccessful applicants to the Social Innovation Fund?
A core objective of Scaling What Works is to help grantmakers build their capacity to support high-performing nonprofits. Grantmakers that have taken the time and effort to apply to the Social Innovation Fund are clearly committed to supporting high-performing nonprofits. Therefore, GEO aims to provide tools and support to help them continue to improve their practice, perhaps enabling them to receive a grant from the Social Innovation Fund in the future.