Supporting Philanthropy, Strengthening Impact

Foundations invest millions of dollars to carry out their missions and change the world. How do they know their investments are working?

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) uses the strongest research evidence and deep experience in systems change across multiple sectors to support foundations, large and small, in fulfilling their missions.

“As a new foundation, we wanted to build a strong foundation for evidence building through our strategic grantmaking. Our partners at AIR have been invaluable in facilitating the development of the theories of change, logic models, and evaluation questions that guide our core grantmaking. We also collaborated on building a robust monitoring system that captures key qualitative and quantitative data from all grantees. This work has been rigorous and resulted in increased staff capacity to approach each grant with a more critical mindset.”

—ECMC Foundation

As a foundation leader…

  • Do you have a theory of change that drives your strategic plan?
  • Are you monitoring your results in real time?
  • Is your investment strategy delivering on your mission?
  • Your Board is asking…do you have an answer?

AIR can help you measure your results.

Together, we can improve these numbers.

AIR works with foundations to tackle persistent education and workforce challenges. This work yields customized tools, processes, products, and evaluations that respond to foundations’ pressing questions and needs.

We begin by listening. We then assemble a team of experts from both the foundation and AIR who co-lead the strategic planning, formative monitoring, and summative evaluation activities. We understand that foundations’ needs will evolve. AIR builds in the flexibility to
attend to the ever-changing funding landscape.

What services and results can you expect?

Strategic Planning

  • Theories of change that reflect foundation goals for diversity, equity, inclusion, or other outcomes
  • Logic models that drive investment strategies
  • Convenings with other foundations with similar funding priorities to learn from, inform, and complement one another’s investment strategies

Formative Monitoring

Infographic: Nationally, foundations struggle to measure results

  • Lessons learned from focus groups and interviews with grantees
  • Monitoring systems that yield insights regarding investment strategies

Summative Evaluation

  • Requests for proposals that address prioritized evaluation questions
  • Short- and long-term results associated with your investments

AIR delivers these services by assembling teams with content and methodological knowledge that complements the foundation’s expertise and interests. AIR also  ensures that teams consist of staff with diverse perspectives and experiences so the work reflects an understanding of the cultures and worldviews of our partners and audiences. Some of the foundations we’ve worked with as research and content experts include:

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Betty Moore Foundation
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
ECMC Foundation
Ford Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Lumina Foundation
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
McDougal Family Foundation
Nellie Mae Foundation
Novo Foundation
Overdeck Family Foundation
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Rochester Area Community Foundation
Stuart Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Bainum Family Foundation
Wallace Foundation
Walton Family Foundation
William T. Grant Foundation
Woodrow Wilson Foundation


Our work to date with most of these foundations has been in response to requests for proposals. Through our projects, however, we have learned about the foundations’ priorities.