Using Social Network Analysis to Understand the Perceived Role and Influence of Foundations

Todd L. Ely, Katie Edwards, Rachel Hogg Graham, Danielle Varda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Foundations play a prominent role in philanthropy, representing nearly $67 billion, or 16%, of giving in the United States during 2017 (Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy, 2018). Arguably, more important than the level of giving is the collective impact of foundations working in concert with grantees to address an array of social purposes. The critical relationship between foundation and grantee is complicated due to an imbalance in power and accountability when one party in a relationship is dependent on resources from another. Whereas funders rightfully demand accountability from grantees through evaluations and reporting, grantees have more limited and challenging means of holding funders accountable. These include turning down grant support — an unlikely response for most organizations — or, “they may exercise voice through complaints and efforts to reform their funders” (Ebrahim, 2003, p. 201). More generally, “the power and wealth of private foundations often prevents them from getting good criticism” (Wisely, 2002, p. 163).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-44
Number of pages15
JournalFoundation Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. The Foundation Review is reproduced electronically by ScholarWorks@GVSU.


  • Foundations
  • collaboration
  • evaluation
  • network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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