(Eliza Smith is the Special Projects Associate for Glasspockets at the Foundation Center-San Francisco. This originally appeared on our sister blog Transparency Talk.)
The Lumina Foundation, an educational achievement-focused philanthropy, has set an ambitious goal: they want to leverage their "outcomes-based approach" to increase "the proportion of Americans with high quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025."
Thanks to the clarity and specificity of the goal, as I read through the Foundation's annual report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, I started to see Goal 2025 as a truly achievable milestone. The Foundation has been issuing Stronger Nation since 2009. While it presents a great number of statistics, it's surprisingly accessible. This is due in great part to its design: which manages to be data-rich yet still retain a feeling of accessibility and flow.
Rather than begin with a letter from leadership, the introduction begins with a compelling graphic "tracking the trend" of the rising percentage of the population that has earned at least an associate's degree. The graphic charts the upswing here, rising from 37.9 percent of the population that met this achievement level in 2008 to 2012, with 39.4 percent of the population attaining a degree. Yes, the increments are small, but the increase each year is constant and encouraging.
What may be most helpful to those interested in regional trends and community needs is that the report then outlines each state's progress in the area of higher education attainment. There is a summary, followed by graphics that demonstrate the state's progress towards Goal 2025. Pie charts offer percentages of the population with educational levels ranging from "less than ninth grade" to "graduate or professional degree." There's a breakdown of these statistics across specific population groups. There's also a graph illustrating the path to Goal 2025 attainment. They even breakdown degree achievement by county. Everything is clear, concise, and quite convincing.
Yes, Goal 2025 is ambitious. But the Lumina Foundation is demonstrating a commitment to transparency practices by openly sharing the progress of its goal, as well as its obstacles, incremental achievements, and next steps. Lumina's annual report is the gateway to understanding how they intend to achieve Goal 2025 and provides a framework for others to consider when grappling with how to measure progress toward philanthropic goals.
-- Eliza Smith