Key Points

Compagnia di San Paolo, an Italian grantmaking foundation, conducted a text analysis using a set of keywords extracted from grantees’ project descriptions to measure how successfully its work aligned with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and to identify interrelationships among the goals themselves.

This article describes the foundation’s research methods and shares the results of its analysis, which found significant contributions to the goals in a number of areas funded by the Compagnia and less alignment in others. The analysis is particularly noteworthy in its identification of an unintentional pattern of convergence between the foundation’s activities and the Sustainable Development Goals, which were never explicitly adopted by the foundation as terms of reference in any aspect of the planning and development of its work.

To understand how a foundation’s work aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals framework is useful to many philanthropic functions: communication; advocacy; offering a role in a common, worldwide effort; and evaluating the organization’s own choices (explicit or tacit) against the background set by the project. This article illustrates how other foundations can adapt Compagnia’s approach to evaluate their own contributions.

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