Founder and CEO of the Constellation Fund
A Note from Our CEO
In the year ahead, the Constellation Fund will celebrate its fifth anniversary. While our organization is laser-focused on long-term impact, this short-term milestone offers the opportunity to reflect on what has been learned.
Learning has been the operative word in these first years. Early on, I received advice from leaders at the Robin Hood Foundation – our sister organization in New York City that has implemented a similar philanthropic model for 35 years – for Constellation to build its own evidence base before drawing its own conclusions. We have taken that wisdom to heart, having now built over 230 customized metrics and conducted well over 100 rigorous evaluations of nonprofits across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Here are a few things that I have learned from that work.
First, the nonprofit sector deserves our trust and admiration. The evidence indicates that a majority of poverty-fighting organizations in our community are creating meaningful, measurable impact by addressing challenges, removing barriers, and unlocking potential.
Second, while most nonprofits are doing good, some are doing great. Just take a look at the top and bottom quartiles of Constellation’s evaluations to date.
"Constellation is now in a unique position to help bring some of our community’s most impactful poverty-fighting solutions to scale."
On average, the bottom quarter of these evaluated nonprofits are projected to turn every donated dollar into $1.3 of health and income improvements for those living in poverty, whereas the top 25 percent of those organizations are projected to turn that same dollar into $7.5 worth of long-term impact, a nearly six-fold difference. I’ll bet you can guess where Constellation has focused its investments.
Third, even with an ever-growing body of evidence at our fingertips, there is always more that we wish we knew about what is truly working best in the fight against poverty. This realization has led to the launch of CoLab, a groundbreaking new research partnership that will improve and disseminate research evidence that can support action to reduce poverty.
Lastly, we must do more. In the for-profit world, businesses offering a sky-high return-on-investment would have a long line of investors eager to help bring their work to its full potential, yet too many of Constellation’s high-performing grantees remain under-resourced. With a mounting evidence base, powerful new tools like CoLab, and a rapidly-growing group of generous donors, Constellation is now in a unique position to help bring some of our community’s most impactful poverty-fighting solutions to scale. This will be the work of Constellation’s next five years and beyond – and I invite you to join us!