Avi Chai: Gearing Up to Spend Down

Professor Joel L. Fleishman’s second annual report on spend-down at the AVI CHAI Foundation examines the changes brought about by the board’s determination to begin governing the institution less from the perspective of individual grants and more with an eye to the sustainability of its overall fields of interests, the likelihood of future funding for these fields, the durability of their leading organizations, and the odds that future philanthropists would see opportunity in, and derive inspiration from, the work that AVI CHAI had set in motion.

An excerpt:

Starting even before 2010, but clearly increasing significantly during that year, the focus of AVI CHAI’s program staff on the urgency of building grantee capacity has intensified. Indeed, for a foundation that, prior to 2009, prided itself on its laser-like restriction of grants to program support and not capacity building, it is a striking transformation. That transformation is indicative of the seriousness with which AVI CHAI Trustees and senior staff members are now taking the importance of such elements of capacity building as providing help to grantees in fund-raising skills, mastering the importance and means of board-building, strengthening organizational decision-making and strategy development and implementation, increasing skills in financial planning and business management, marketing, and, with respect to some grantees, the use of digital information technology for various purposes relevant to the particular organization.

This effort to build stronger, more durable organizations starts with a much-improved ability to assess grantees’ performance and to diagnose aspects of that performance – whether programmatic or organizational – that need improvement. Further, AVI CHAI has in recent years focused more of the time and energy of some of its senior program staff members, both in North America and in Israel, primarily upon what are essentially capacity issues. In fact, all program staff members, from the Executive Directors down through the junior staff, are now increasingly spending time in figuring out how best to strengthen the capacity of each grantee, organization by organization.

The complete report, Gearing Up to Spend Down: A Foundation in the Midst of Paradigm Shifts: Year Two Report on the Concluding Years of the AVI CHAI Foundation, is available for download.

Prof. Fleishman’s initial report, First Annual Report to The AVI CHAI Foundation on the Progress of its Decision to Spend Down, is also available.