Created in 1913 under the will of Benjamin Altman (see History for further information), the Altman Foundation has kept our founder’s values and interests as our touchstone, while also responding to emerging needs and issues. We strive to:
- Take chances on promising ideas without being too prescriptive;
- Stay the course with an issue and with high-performing grantees; and
- Learn alongside our grantees to drive improvement in practice.
At the Altman Foundation we think of ourselves not only as distributors of resources (“grantmakers”) but also as “investors” in human gain for the individuals, families, and communities we serve. In that mode, we review proposals with the following questions in mind:
- What are the results or outcomes from the project—short- and longer-term—that provide the return on our investment?
- What are the chances that the nonprofit applying to us will achieve these results?
- If things get off track, is this a learning organization that can make meaningful adjustments based on quantitative and/or qualitative data (Or “based on good information”)?
- Given all the opportunities in front of us, is this the best possible use of our money?
Our interest in “results” rather than “activities” is reflected in our guidelines, applications and due diligence, reporting forms, and post-grant analysis. Within the five Program Areas that the Foundation has established, we ask organizations seeking support to describe the results that they themselves have made a priority:
- How do you define success—meaning what are the results you hope to achieve for the people you serve?
- How do you know for certain when success has been achieved?
- What information are you gathering along the way that will tell you whether you are on track or that will allow you to make course corrections as needed?
A Focus on Learning
In implementing this approach, our goal is to gather information on our grantees’ success in a consistent way that will allow us to:
- Learn with and from our grantees about challenges and opportunities on the ground;
- Assess the performance of our portfolio and make informed decisions about the allocation of resources; and
- Look more easily across types of grants and program areas and identify the common barriers that keep organizations from achieving their desired results, so that we can determine if the Foundation can help address these shared challenges.
To carry out our mission, we make three types of investments:
- Investments in Direct Service
In this category, we support programs and projects that directly deliver services to individuals, families, organizations, and/or communities.
- Investments in Capacity Building
At times, we believe that making an investment in an organization so that it can achieve and sustain stronger gains for those served is the best grant we can make.
- Investments in Systems Change
In some cases, the most pressing need or opportunity for impact is making an improvement in the larger context of factors and forces that affect programs, organizations, and communities. The Foundation also allocates grants to strategic policy, advocacy, and applied research initiatives that advance the Foundation's program priorities.
In addition, the Altman Foundation:
- Promotes connections among nonprofits, government agencies, and foundations, and other organizations doing complementary work in order to advance best practices and build knowledge within a given field;
- Seeks to leverage its limited resources by investing in issues, programs, or initiatives that have the potential to attract other funding sources, both public and private; and
- Initiates a limited number of program-related investments that provide low-cost loans to high-performing nonprofits with strong business models and the capacity to leverage other capital sources to advance effective programs or initiatives.