Paying attention to culture doesn’t have to happen only at huge, earth-shattering moments in the life of an organization. Foundation leaders and staff have opportunities all the time to tend to and shape the culture of their organizations. In this publication, GEO takes a look at the key moments when grantmakers have unique opportunities to influence organizational culture. More specifically, the publication sets out to describe why culture matters, identify and catalogue some of these cultural moments, share stories from GEO members, and offer practical guidance. The content for this publication is based largely on organizational culture research and interviews with GEO members who have made culture a focus and taken advantage of key moments, from leadership changes and office moves to the launch of new grantmaking strategies and initiatives. This publication is based largely on interviews with GEO members and has been informed by guidance from GEO’s member advisory group on culture, feedback from our Nonprofit Advisory Council, and a series of meetings with CEOs and senior leaders of grantmaking organizations.

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Case Studies

With a new leader, Boston’s Barr Foundation is shifting from a largely anonymous grantmaker to one that wants to lead publicly on issues and act as a catalyst for solutions.

Regional grantmaker embraces a new set of core operating values, with a sharpened focus on diversity and equity and a commitment to changing who does the work and how they do it.

A new office space pays dividends by facilitating collaboration and supporting a culture of open communication and feedback.

A new grantmaking initiative drives a corporate foundation to reassess its core practices and culture, with an emphasis on community engagement, learning and storytelling.

A new foundation strives to set the culture and tone for its work through a deliberate focus on collaboration and community engagement.