Program Impact and Learning

  • Each of the Fund's program portfolios goes through a cycle of assessment activities on a regular basis.

Our Approach to Program Impact

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has six grantmaking programs that reflect the board and staff’s assessment of the challenges facing today’s increasingly interdependent world. Three programs—Democratic Practice, Peacebuilding, and Sustainable Development—are fields of work that are issues of enduring global concern. These thematic programs identify places where breakthroughs are needed or opportunities to contribute to global progress are particularly compelling. They typically maintain a focus on the United States along with work internationally to strengthen the vitality of democracy, secure just and durable peace, and advance solutions to climate change. Two pivotal place programs— China and the Western Balkans—pursue program goals in our fields of interest as appropriate to these specific contexts. They aim to build local capacity and generate lessons and innovations of significance to their immediate regions and beyond. We believe a combination of thematic and place-based approaches is needed to achieve enduring change. The Charles E. Culpeper Arts & Culture program, focused on New York, nurtures a vibrant and inclusive arts community in the Fund's home city.

The key elements of the RBF's approach to assessing program impact are detailed in Evaluating Program Impact. For the purpose of its grantmaking programs, the RBF defines impact as a contribution to social change, including shifts in understanding, behavior, capacity, public engagement, and public policy. Within each program, monitoring of the field and of individual grants is an ongoing activity that draws on staff engagement and grantee reporting. Program reviews, conducted every three to five years by program staff, provide an opportunity to engage the board in a strategic review of progress. Impact assessments are conducted by external consultants after five or more years as strategies mature. In assessing the context, profile, and impact of the Fund's contributions to its fields of work, these reports inform the development and evolution of grantmaking programs. Program development also includes other research and extensive engagement with the Fund’s board of trustees. Program guidelines are the board-approved articulation of the Fund's vision, goals, and strategies for its current programs and grantmaking. We also measure our institutional effectiveness.

Evaluating Program Impact

Abridged version [PDF]

Unabridged version [PDF]

Program Reports

While the lessons and recommendations captured in these reports inform program development, they do not necessarily reflect current program guidelines or future directions.

Democratic Practice

Movement Building for Structural Change (2019)

Impact Assessment 2010-2015: Democratic Practice—Global Governance and Program Director's Reflections (2017)

Democratic Practice–United States: Revisions to Program Guidelines (2015)

Money-in-Politics Grantmaking Impact Assessment (2013)

Youth Civic Engagement Grantmaking Strategic Review (2009)


Peacebuilding Program Adopts New Guidelines to Confront Evolving Challenges (2020)

2011–2018 Peacebuilding Program Review Summary (2018)

Peacebuilding Program Memo (2011)

The U.S.-Iran Track II Dialogue (2002–2008): Lessons Learned and Implications for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Grantmaking Strategy (2010)

Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development Program Review, 2005–2010 (2010)

Culpeper Arts & Culture

Charles E. Culpeper Arts and Culture Grants Impact Assessment (2014)


No current reports

Western Balkans

Western Balkans Program Review Memo (2019)

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Western Balkans Program: Midterm Impact Assessment (2016)

An Eye on Justice: Monitoring Kosovo’s Courts, 2008–2014 (2015)

Past Programs

The Story of Brownfields (New York City program, 2012)

Democratic Practice Focus on Immigrant Communities (New York City program, 2009)

Evaluating Grantmaking in South Africa (2009)

Making a Difference: Collaborative Organizing for School Improvement in New York City, 1996–2006 (2007)

75th Anniversary Essays

To commemorate its 75th anniversary in December 2015, the Fund unveiled an interactive timeline of programmatic highlights and institutional milestones. It also commissioned a series of essays examining its history.

International Philanthropy

Read the essay on our website | Download the PDF

Conservation and the Environment

Read the essay on our website | Download the PDF

Reflecting on Risk and Failure

Read the essay on our website | Download the PDF

12 Lessons from Family Philanthropy

Read the essay on our website | Download the PDF

Visit the 75th anniversary timeline