Key Points

One of the dominant tensions in philanthropy involves the question of whether foundations should focus their grantmaking on projects that come from the community versus projects that have a base of scientific evidence. How a foundation answers this question leads to different strategic orientations.

This article describes how this tension was expressed and resolved during The Colorado Trust’s early years of initiative-based grantmaking. The community-based philosophy is illustrated through the Colorado Healthy Communities Initiative, while Home Visitation 2000 serves as an exemplar of the evidence-based approach. The Colorado School Health Education Initiative purposefully integrated the two philosophies.

The community-based and evidence-based philosophies each have inherent limitations which can be overcome by incorporating the opposing philosophy. This finding is consistent with Barry Johnson’s (1992) Polarity Management model and potentially at odds with the principle of strategic alignment.

Open Access