The W.K. Kellogg Foundation 

Delivering social change at scale


The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was behind the times when it came to giving employees the mobile tools and agile workflows they expected. In a field where the ability to collaborate quickly is pivotal — in particular with grantmaking — these technology hangups were holding the foundation back from reaching its potential. 



A best-of-breed cloud stack using Box as the single content layer for tools like Slack and Trello gives employees efficient, secure mobile access to all content. It also solves lingering problems of file storage and exposure via shadow IT. With all content on Box, search functionality and automation are enhanced. And the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has reinvented their Grantee Document Portal on Box.


Business processes like HR onboarding are accelerated with better search functionality and automation. And with the grantmaking process, Box doesn’t just enable easier collaboration. It streamlines the process for higher employee satisfaction and a secure handle on all content.  Ultimately, this allows the foundation to make a bigger social impact. 

Mentor training for disadvantaged indigenous Mayan girls in Yucatan, Mexico. Better availability of breast milk for vulnerable infants in Mississippi's neonatal intensive care units. Enhanced entrepreneurial support for lower-income Navajo Nation families. These are just some of the funds the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has granted in its quest to support children, families, and community. Since 1930, this organization, originally founded by breakfast cereal pioneer W.K. Kellogg, has worked to effect change with grantmaking, impact investing, networking, and convening. 

Today, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has roughly 200 employees and operates in six priority places, including the original location of Battle Creek, Michigan, as well as Mississippi, New Mexico, New Orleans, Haiti, and parts of Mexico. In each of these places, poverty is high and resources low — but there is promise for improvement.

Dan Ryan, IT Manager at W.K. Kellogg Foundation, had long worked in local government before making the transition to international nonprofit work. He saw an opportunity to extend his role in catalyzing positive social change across a larger footprint. It's Ryan's job to provide the foundation's dispersed staff with the technology they need to collaborate across geographic boundaries. He sees technology as a way to enable people to achieve the foundation's goals more efficiently and effectively. 

Ryan’s quest for the right tools led him to Cloud Content Management from Box.


"Working with 200 super-smart people who want to be as efficient and effective as they can be, when you hit that technology sweet spot, you certainly know it."

Ryan, IT Manager, W.K. Kellogg Foundation


Tackling shadow IT

A few years ago, the shared drive at the W.K. Kellogg foundation was rapidly filling up. Around the same time, Ryan noticed a trend among the dispersed staff: an expectation of mobility. Their existing content management software didn't allow for mobile sharing or governance, so employees were finding ways around the restrictions and creating their own unsanctioned sharing methods — from emailed files to cloud-based shares. "We knew staff were doing it without us," says Ryan of mobile sharing. "We were losing governance of our data."

He began to talk to his peers in the foundation arena to find out how others were solving the dilemma of shadow IT. "Foundations rely on each other for best practice, and collaboration across the sector is phenomenal," he says. "So how did we select Box? We talked to our peers."

Choosing Box was partly a form of risk management. Having a single, cloud-based content platform replaced on-prem servers and addressed the need for mobility while bringing governance back in house. The robust search functionality of Box gives the W.K. Kellogg Foundation a lens into shared data across the organization. Ryan says, "There's been a gain in business value through the search capabilities that we didn't have previously." But Box introduced other benefits Ryan hadn't known to look for as he vetted content management solutions. 


"We're creating a culture shift to get out of the inbox and just into Box."

 Dan Ryan, IT Manager at W.K. Kellogg Foundation

A swifter, more collaborative grantmaking process

Centralized content was just the start. Box has brought enhanced benefits to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It has allowed the foundation to speed up processes like grantmaking that are integral to its mission. Thanks to the vision of Phil Scamihorn, Knowledge and Data Team Squad Leader, the team moved the process of assigning and accessing grantmaking to Box, taking advantage of Box APIs to customize the right solution. By thoroughly replacing their Grantee Document Portal, previously a SharePoint site integrated with their proprietary grantmaking solution, Encompass, the foundation has made the grantmaking process much more efficient and collaborative. 

Now, Grant Evaluators take advantage of automatic refreshing of content, notifications on what has changed within an assignment, and the ability to automatically notify contract owners when contracts have been completed. This upgrade has a lot of benefits, including better visibility and access control for all participants in the grantmaking process. The foundation has been able to decommission SharePoint and save on duplicative, expensive server costs.

Ryan considers it a future proof solution: “If we move to a different grantmaking solution, Box can remain our repository for content sharing.”


“We want to select technologies and platforms that integrate with our programming side. We’re in the business of grantmaking. Technology for technology’s sake — we’re never going to get it funded.”

 Dan Ryan, IT Manager at W.K. Kellogg Foundation


Change management bolstered by integrations

The transition from on-prem content storage to content in the cloud was smooth, partly because Ryan could roll out the change to Box in a way that worked for everyone. "Box allowed us to meet people where they were at," he explains. If they were uncomfortable with change, Box Drive allowed them to view content in a shared drive, just as they were used to. Slowly, as they became comfortable, they could be educated to take advantage of more advanced features of Box — like right-clicking to share. For more sophisticated users, "ready to be mobile and roll anywhere, anyhow," Ryan says, Box was perfect for them, too.

Box is no longer just a content-management platform for the organization. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation also takes advantage of automation capabilities for certain standard processes. For instance, HR uses Box for employee onboarding, simplifying a process that used to involve sending a document around to 48 individual people via email, all of whom had to take an action before passing it along. Now, with Box, the foundation has visibility into the entire workflow, and stakeholders can complete their part without holding up the process.

Box also integrates well with productivity tools the foundation uses, such as Slack and Trello, and Ryan envisions further integrations with other tools they use, like Tableau. As he contemplates any further technology choices, he says, "From here on out, all the selections we're looking at must integrate with Box."


Endless possibilities for the future of content

As the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's use of Box becomes more sophisticated over time, Ryan is excited about the future. He envisions using Box Governance to implement retention policies that align current practices with ideal protocols, for example.

With the terabytes upon terabytes of photos community workers generate, he also sees a future path to AI by applying Box Skills. By automatically geotagging images as they're uploaded into Box, the organization wouldn't have to worry about tracking down a photograph's original creator to get details later on. "Let's face it," Ryan says. "People come and go, but files stay behind. With Box Skills, we see a quick way to start tagging photos and augment that automated tagging with additional context to bring the machine learning in and propel information forward with things like facial recognition." 

"It's exciting to see where the sector's going," he says, "with all the transparency and openness and the integration points. Box simply hit the sweet spot for us."

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