School of Education
Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)
philanthropic foundations, decision-making, garbage can model, grantmaking, community colleges, intermediary organizations
Giovanni, Tanya Wightman, "Grantmaking Decision-Making of a Philanthropic Foundation Funding Community Colleges and Community College-Focused Intermediary Organizations: A Case Study" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4947.
The purpose of this qualitative, single-instrument case study was to discover and understand how philanthropic foundations decide to fund community colleges by exploring the perceptions of the decision-making processes of the leadership team. The theoretical framework that guided this study was Cohen et al.’s garbage can model of organizational choice. Semi-structured interviews were used to engage with persons identified as members of the leadership team, decision-makers, and board of directors for the philanthropic foundation. The interviewed study participants were asked open-ended questions related to the central research question, ‘What are the decision-making processes of philanthropic foundations when deciding to fund community colleges and community college-focused intermediary organizations?’ There were also examinations of documents and nonparticipant observational data collected relative to the research questions. The data was coded, analyzed, and interpreted to identify themes. Three themes emerged through data analysis: mission and priority alignment, strategic direction and focus (priorities, vision, mission, goals), and collaboration and flexibility. Understanding the decision-making of philanthropic foundations supporting community colleges provided new insights into effective practices for community colleges and revelations for the greater philanthropic field relative to decision-making processes. The results included that philanthropic foundation decision-makers use various methods to identify priorities and pursue impact, but the need for increased collaboration, storytelling, and adaptivity was identified to support the decision-making process and strategies. Keywords: philanthropic foundations, decision-making, garbage can model, grantmaking, community colleges, intermediary organizations.