Philanthropic Counsel

Could you identify the top three ways in which your arts funding makes a difference to the constituent's you support? And, would the information you have gathered support your claims?

What are the most effective ways to demonstrate impact to your foundation's board and policy makers?

If you’re a funder, you may be caught between a large board that wants solid evidence of big results and non-profit grantees that can’t always deliver what they promised. You must justify decisions, not only to your board, but to applicants and the outside world. And, you may wonder about the true impact of your grants.

Our Approach

Our approach to philanthropy combines the insight from over 25 years’ experience as a national funder with a firm grounding in evaluation. Our needs assessments and guidelines help funders design and launch funding programs. Our management of grant programs can include guideline revision, promotion, application review, and/or grant tracking. Our evaluations of a grant program can include measuring impact, reporting, and even presenting results to your board.

Our Results

  • Grantmaking and Program Design. Responsible for program design, administration, and evaluation of Engaging Dance Audiences (2008-present), a $1.9 million pilot program that enables Dance/USA members to explore methods of engaging audiences for dance, learn from peers, and share the learning nationally. As full partners with Dance/USA, our firm encourages the dance field to embrace its use of technology, better understand the relationship between audiences and artists, and build capacity in these areas that are critical to the field’s future.
  • Commissioned to conduct ongoing evaluation of South Arts’ Dance Touring Initiative, to help this funder learn about the effectiveness of the program in building dance presenting in the South. A hybrid of developmental and outcomes evaluation methods is used to measure increased capacity and social capital among program participants. 
  • For Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, we designed and managed a new grant subsidy opportunity, which greatly increased the reach and diversity of this program. (2009-2011).
  • CCA designed, managed, and evaluated Dance/USA’s National College Choreography Initiative and American Masterpieces Dance-College Component (2000-2008), an extremely successful program that supports collaborations between guest artists, colleges, and communities across the country. In its six rounds of funding, 199 residencies supported over 100 artists at over 100 different colleges reaching over 55,000 students; audiences numbered over 287,000. Based on the documentation and evaluation of its accomplishments, the NEA renewed the NCCI from a single year to three rounds of funding and then developed its predecessor American Masterpieces Dance - College Component (AMD-CC).
  • Evaluation Training for Foundations, Arts Organizations, and Universities. We develop and train staff in evaluation methodology that is defensible and systematic, yet appropriate for arts initiatives, whose impact can’t always be captured in numbers. Clients include University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), Southern Arts Federation (Atlanta), University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), and Kenan Institute for the Arts (Winston-Salem). See one of the training tools, Evaluation Glossary for Funders.
  • Commissioned to write the book Singing Our Praises, which demystifies evaluation by highlighting examples of how arts presenters have used it to learn about their success. Real-life stories, guides, and techniques from other fields are used to train practitioners to design their own evaluations. Funded by the Wallace Foundation, the text received the American Evaluation Association’s sole national award for Outstanding Publication of the Year in 2005.
  • Conceptualized and developed extensive content for the website IMPACT Arts for the Arts and Civic Engagement Impact Initiative of Animating Democracy at Americans for the Arts (AFTA). As a national advisor, we provided extensive concepts, text, and guidance for the website, and created an extensive database of resources and tools that can help funders and arts organizations better evaluate and report the social and civic outcomes of their work. We also created a field study on Rha Goddess and the Hip Hop Mental Health Project. View some of our evaluation guides for arts and social impact.
  • Grant Tracking and Evaluation. We provide support to organizations in measuring and reporting their impact to private and public funders. On behalf of the Covenant Foundation, evaluated the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s Small Dances About Big Ideas. Evaluated a commissioning program for Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which conveyed to their board the long-term impact of supporting new work for both artists and audiences. Designed a database system that tracks the impact of grant making, allowing funders to gather, compare, search, transmit, and assess information. This system was adapted to the needs of funding programs, such as the NPN’s residency program and the National College Choreography Initiative.
  • National Research on Dance Issues and Communities. We conduct major studies of dance-related issues and dance communities in cities across the United States to inform funders’ policy decisions. Studies for The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, as well as other funders have involved extensive research on choreographic training, the arts field’s use of technology, and communities in Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
  • Panel and Site Visit Service. Callahan has served as panelist or site visitor for the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation’s US-Mexico Fund for Culture, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Dance Advance Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. She has written for or spoken at the gatherings of many arts organizations that provide funding including Grantmakers in the Arts, Dance/USA, The National Performance Network, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and the Association Foundation Group.

Measure the impact of your programs.