Get the Toolkit

Get the What's Next toolkit

The “What’s Next for Community Philanthropy” toolkit aims to help community philanthropy organizations apply innovation and design methodologies to think creatively about their business models and the broader future of the field.

To get a sense of what you’ll find in the toolkit, please read the Overview document below. Or if you prefer, flip through the “short story” visual distillation of the What’s Next message, instead. There is also a short addendum for Canadians that highlights the unique differences between community philanthropy in the US and Canada.

The other tools are designed to be mixed and matched in a variety of ways, so once you’re ready, feel free to dive into the individual pieces to help you begin to look outward to anticipate what the future might bring, to look around to learn from others, to look inward to challenge your own assumptions, and then to get to action.



Looking outward

Follow emerging global and local trends, and assess what they might mean for your community. And at the same time, make sure you have a good understanding of who is already serving your community.

  • Shift Happens: Need help making sense of how your community is changing? The world is shifting rapidly and the pace of change is only increasing. For community philanthropy leaders who are focused on their own communities, it can be difficult to see the broader national and global forces that could alter their communities in the future. Consider the meta-trends below and think of both how they have already changed your community and how they might continue to change it in the future.
  • Landscape Mapping: Curious to see which roles other community philanthropy organizations are (or aren’t) playing in your community? This exercise provides a structured process for understanding the shifting landscape of community philanthropy in your area. Investigating the broader set of actors who are mobilizing financial and human resources on behalf of the community can help your organization avoid unnecessary duplication of effort, explore potential partnerships, and begin to address critical gaps in your community’s philanthropy ecosystem.

Looking around

Innovation doesn’t need to mean “new”; it just needs to be new to you and your organization. Look to “bright spots” already emerging inside and outside the field, and don’t be afraid to copy shamelessly.

  • Bright Spots: Looking for new ideas and new ways of serving your community? Get inspired by the wide range of approaches that seem to be working in and around the field—what authors Chip and Dan Heath refer to as “bright spots.” The bright spots in this document are organized across ten broad clusters of roles that community philanthropy organizations can play in their communities, detailed below. Bright spots can be copied directly, adapted for use in new places and circumstances, or serve to spur altogether new thinking and ideas.
  • Think Global: Want to learn from what community philanthropy organizations around the globe are doing? International community foundations now outnumber those in the US and have often developed without many of the usual constraints and assumptions found in the US and Canada. If you are looking for fresh thinking, this essay will detail a number of practices, approaches, and ideas that you could import into your own work from community-based funders across six continents.

Looking inward

Challenge orthodoxies and blind spots that are keeping you from recognizing new opportunities, and actively build a portfolio of the roles that are right for your organization and community.

  • Flipping Orthodoxies: Stuck in old ways of thinking? Sometimes, the greatest opportunities are hiding in plain sight. This card game will help you identify and flip deeply held, unstated and unquestioned assumptions about “how things are done” that can become blind spots over time–what the innovation strategy firm Doblin calls “orthodoxies.” The Flipping Orthodoxies exercise helps you build a better understanding the orthodoxies within your organization, and provides a process for challenging and flipping assumptions that may be holding you back. Download the Orthodoxies Card Deck that accompanies this exercise.
  • Prioritizing RolesStruggling to prioritize which roles your organization should focus on? This card game will help you think about the portfolio of roles you play in your community in the context of your organization’s mission, capabilities, and resources. Gain greater clarity about where to focus your organization’s efforts, and how to balance today’s core activities—the bread and butter of your work—with aspirational experiments that could position you to better serve your community in the future. Download the Prioritizing Roles Card Deck that accompanies this exercise.

Getting to action

Whether you want to shift your organization’s core or experiment around the edges, there are a number of first steps you can take to begin thinking creatively about the roles and services you provide.

  • Generating New IdeasReady to brainstorm new ways to serve your community? This methodology and set of related exercises are tailored to spur creative new thinking about how your community philanthropy organization can do its work. It will equip you to run your own “idea generation” workshop with your staff, senior leaders, and board members to develop new practices and solutions to pressing local challenges.
  • Prototyping Solutions: Want to figure out which new innovations show real promise? Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s putting them into practice that’s often the hard part. Prototyping allows you to quickly build out and evaluate ideas before dedicating resources to roll out big programs or initiatives. This exercise will help you design prototypes that address critical unmet organizational and community needs, that leverage internal and external resources, and that serve as proof points for more intensive action down the road.

What to stay connected?

Keep up to date with the latest news from the What's Next for Community Philanthropy initiative by contacting us at

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