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Top Philanthropy Research Prize Awarded to Albany Consultant Robert M. Penna, Ph.D.

April 24, 2012

AFP has awarded its top research award, The Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy, to Robert M. Penna, Ph.D., of Albany, N.Y., for his pioneering book, The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox: A Complete Guide to Program Effectiveness, Performance Measurement, and Results, published by John Wiley & Sons. 

Each year, the AFP Research Council awards the Skystone Partners Prize for Research to the author of a book that contributes substantially to the knowledge and understanding of fundraising or philanthropic behavior. The award is made possible by an endowment established by Skystone Partners, an international fundraising consulting firm, through the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy to encourage advanced research that extends the knowledge of fundraising and philanthropy. 

The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox is an in-depth and comprehensive treatment on outcome use and assessment for nonprofit organizations.  Of great interest to nonprofits will be how the book brings in tools and approaches used in the corporate sector and shows readers how they can be effective for philanthropic and governmental organizations. 

“Beyond serving as a virtual encyclopedia on the topic, this book remains practical and entertaining through its smart organization and lively presentation,” said AFP’s Research Council in a statement about the honoree. “This volume was selected with intentional recognition that fundraising takes place within the larger organizational context.  Success in fundraising serves, but is also served by, overall organizational effectiveness.  This book provides an accessible and comprehensive set of tools for promoting that effectiveness.  In keeping with the qualifications and criteria for this AFP research prize, Dr. Penna’s book is outstanding.” 

Penna is a consultant to the nonprofit sector, and one of the nation’s leading experts in comparative outcome models and their application to the work of nonprofits. In addition to his consulting practice, he currently works for the Albany-based Family and Children’s Service of the Capital Region as a program developer, and serves as the international coordinator for Charity Navigator, responsible for the development of that group’s activities beyond U.S. borders. He also serves on Charity Navigator’s advisory board and is a member of the Alliance for Effective Social Investing. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior consultant to The Rensselaerville Institute, facilitating its nationwide outcome management seminars, serving as project lead for the Institute’s design of a program reporting system for the United Nations, and worked on projects for, among others, the A.E. Casey Foundation, the National Geographic Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. He was also the lead author of the Institute’s book, Outcome Frameworks.

Penna previously worked 13 years as a staff member for the New York State Senate. He grew up in the Bronx, graduated from Fordham University, and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston University with a specialization in urban and municipal affairs. 

“Skystone Partners is delighted with the Research Council’s selection for the Prize for Research this year,” said Elizabeth Kohler Knuppel, managing partner for Skystone Partners. “As more philanthropists seek to make investments based on verifiable outcomes, Dr. Penna’s work demystifies the process of setting, managing and reporting realistic outcomes for today’s nonprofit organization.” 

AFP presented the Skystone Partners Prize for Research at its board meeting before the 49th AFP International Conference on Fundraising in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

“Nonprofit effectiveness and performance should rightly be on the minds of every nonprofit professional, but it’s a difficult issue that many charities can’t get their arms around—how best to measure their impact and communicate it to the public,” said Andrew Watt, FInstF, president and CEO of AFP. “What Dr. Penna has done is create a ground-breaking, definitive roadmap for all charities in assessing and expressing their capacity and outcomes. The volume couldn’t come at a more crucial time with the giving public clamoring for ways to identify and support charities that make a real difference. AFP is proud to honor Dr. Penna for this exceptional work.”

To purchase this book and other helpful guides on fundraising and nonprofit management, visit the AFP Bookstore.

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