Key Points

· Foundations increasingly recognize the importance of strategic and effective communications to advance their social-change goals. This article provides a framework that helps foundations to better understand the communications capacity of their grantee partners.

· Based on a detailed analysis of a survey of 529 foundations, universities and nonprofits, the authors created a six-point index that identifies the characteristics and practices of organizations that are ranked as highly effective at using communications to advance their goals.

· The six indicators are: Involvement of organization leadership in communications, communications planning and organization-wide planning, staffing and the use of outside expertise, donor understanding and support for communications, managing the communications basics, and the role of evaluation in communications.

· This article describes a self-assessment tool that allows organizations to compare their practices to those who participated in the national survey, and to the approaches identified in the index.

· Guidance on how foundations and grantees can use the self-assessment and Communications Effectiveness Index to inform planning, establish baseline capacities, direct or request resources such as funding for training, and evaluate effectiveness of communications efforts is also discussed.

Open Access