News and analysis
April 07, 2010

Federal Program to Find Innovative Charities Names New Leader

Paul L. Carttar—a nonprofit expert with a wide range of experience in philanthropic, business, government, and academic work—has been named director of the Social Innovation Fund, the new federal grant program designed to help nonprofit groups expand effective programs.

Mr. Carttar, who co-founded the Bridgespan Group, a prominent nonprofit-management consulting firm, in 1999, has served since 2008 as an executive partner at New Profit, a nonprofit group that provides money to innovative social projects, and a senior adviser at the Monitor Group, a management consulting firm.

He previously worked as chief operating officer for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, executive vice chancellor for external affairs at the University of Kansas, an executive at two health-care companies, and an analyst and assistant economist for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee.

“Not only is he a noted expert in nonprofit management and nonprofit capacity-building and growing nonprofits to success, he has an expertise and level of engagement with the nonprofit community that very few people have,” said Ashley Etienne, a spokeswoman for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that manages the Social Innovation Fund.

Special Exemption

Because Mr. Carttar has such a wide circle of nonprofit contacts, the corporation has granted him a waiver from the Obama administration’s ethics rules, which prohibit political appointees from participating in any matter involving former employers or clients for two years, Ms. Etienne said.

However, he will recuse himself from any discussions about former employers or clients during the process of awarding grants, she said.

The corporation announced Mr. Carttar’s appointment one day before the April 8 deadline for submitting applications for the $50-million in grants that will be awarded this year. The agency said it had received more than 200 letters from groups saying they intended to apply for the money.

Mr. Carttar said in an interview that while the Social Innovation Fund involves “relatively limited” money, its emphasis on finding programs with proven results has the potential to influence the way both government and the nonprofit world work.

“One of the most critical things that can make the nonprofit sector as effective as possible is increasingly channeling financial resources to nonprofits that have actually demonstrated that the work they do changes people’s lives,” he said.

He said the corporation will share what it learns with other government agencies, and that “learning communities” set up by the groups that receive social-innovation money will help spread information to the broader philanthropic world.

The corporation plans to award seven to 10 grants of $1-million to $10-million each to existing grant-making organizations. Those groups, in turn, will award annual grants of at least $100,000 to nonprofit groups for projects in the areas of economic opportunity, youth development, and healthy living. Both the grant makers and the nonprofit groups must provide equal matching funds.

The agency said it will award the social-innovation grants by July.