Building an Inclusive Economy
Author: Mary Thomas
Our economic landscape today looks very different than it did 25 years ago. This pattern of change will inevitably continue as technological advancements are rapidly introduced to the world.
To adapt to this new landscape, foundations must be willing to shift and evolve with the changing communities we serve. Seventy-five years ago, our founder— Walter Scott Montgomery—had a vision of introducing community philanthropy to Spartanburg County to meet the needs of the entire area. His vision began with a $10,000 investment that has evolved into a $213 million philanthropic organization that is continuously working to improve the lives of Spartanburg County residents by promoting philanthropy, encouraging local engagement, and responding to community needs.
A great thought leader in our community, Roger Milliken, lived by this motto, “Innovate or die.” Community institutions would do well to live by those words to ensure that our organizations continue to think ahead and maximize community impact by deploying innovative solutions to the issues facing our region. The success that the Spartanburg County Foundation has seen over the years is partly because of its ability to look ahead, remain flexible, and change when necessary to address local issues.
How to Get 11,000 People Talking
On Wednesday, March 15, at the invitation of Blue Grass Community Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky, 11,000 citizens joined with their neighbors, colleagues and friends, over a cup of coffee or a meal, to discuss the city’s quality of life – what’s makes it great and what could be done to make it even better – more sustainable, just, safer, stronger and vibrant.
On the Table, a new community engagement initiative sponsored by the community foundation, invited everyone to participate by hosting or attending a mealtime conversation. The result: more than 1,000 small group conversations in a single day, just 10-12 friends gathered around a table with simple food or drink, having an informal conversation about what matters most as they discussed Lexington’s future.
Why On the Table? At the community foundation, we have a commitment to growing more generous, engaged and vibrant communities. We know big ideas can spring from small conversations and people invest in what they help create. When we come together as a community to listen to and learn from each other, we have the power to impact both neighborhoods and lives. That’s what On the Table is all about.
Helping Grantees Bridge the Gap – Literally
Since the bridge collapsed on I-85, my commute has been 10 minutes longer even though I live on the south side of Atlanta. Each day, my coworkers share travel horror stories around the water cooler about grueling trips to Buckhead for meetings that take an hour and attempts to get to Roswell that end in frustrated banging of the steering wheel. We are lucky that we work for an understanding organization. But what about those that are not in that situation?
For some, this issue is not about inconvenience or funny memes on Facebook. Perhaps they are docked pay for being tardy, no matter the reason, or are paid hourly. Maybe they were already traveling an hour to get to work and now they are faced with double that - complicating second jobs, child care and responsibilities. In short, complicating life.
A One-Stop Shop for Community Foundation Pros
Working in the community foundation field is one of the best jobs anyone could have. To spend your days in service to your community is a privilege.
But community foundations are complicated animals. All those funds! All those laws! The learning curve is steep for those new the field. Even community foundation veterans who are experts in their job may not really understand all the aspects of a community foundation.
At the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance we are fortunate to have the resources to develop a two-day curriculum we call “Boot Camp.” We love sharing this with the community foundations around the country. We get to meet fantastic, dedicated professionals and volunteers. We are excited about our upcoming trip to Orlando to present Boot Camp on June 20-21.
Three Lessons Learned at Community Foundation Boot Camp
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Community Foundation Boot Camp presented by SECF and the Florida Philanthropic Network. As a practitioner transitioning from the world of private philanthropy to the world of community foundations, nothing could’ve been more timely. A training that summarizes the history of the field, gets me acquainted with the “art” of grantmaking, and expands my network to 40 new colleagues in the span of two days – sign me up, please! The training was also made worthwhile by a faculty that represented some of the most respected and experienced professionals in the field.
I’ll share three quick things I learned during my experience at Boot Camp:
I consider private philanthropy to hold the greatest potential to creating and ensuring a just society. While philanthropy does not provide the greatest resource – recognizing the outsize investment the public sector does and should play to drive equity and outcomes – it has always possessed unparalleled opportunity to catalyze and advance the essential conversations, work and investments to change conditions that keep folks poor, powerless and silent.
A few weeks ago, I posted the following blog on my Facebook page. I have worked at a foundation for more than 16 years, yet in this post I speak not as a philanthropic professional but rather as an African American in America. Sharing this post within the SECF family, I recognize that I have a unique advantage of speaking to an audience that many don’t get to speak to – colleagues, many of whom have become lifelong friends. I present it with an appeal to do the disciplined thinking that we have been trained to do… to hear… to ask not just “what” but “why”… to seek truth… to innovate… to right the scales.
All around us communities are exploding and imploding, creating and falling into breaches that threaten the whole. If philanthropy is, as I believe, the force that can be the change, we must be brave enough and humble enough to search for solutions within and without, that build our understanding and increase our impact.
Look to Your Community Foundation in Times of Crisis
Author: Foundant Technologies
This post originally appeared on Exponent Philanthropy’s PhilanthroFiles blog.
Everyone wants to help during a crisis, and, for many, that means giving money. But few understand what it takes to distribute funds to the people, businesses, or nonprofits that will create the greatest impact and fulfill the most need—especially if the money lives in different funds at different organizations.
Enter community foundations, which are inherently good at sharing information and resources. In fact, they do it all the time. Community foundations exist to help others do more with less and find ways to strengthen a community through common resources, ingenuity, and communication.
In the community foundation world, you should never have to ‘reinvent the wheel,’ especially with things like disaster preparedness and recovery. Our community of community foundations is amazing and collaborative.
— Bridget Wilkinson, Executive Director, Bozeman Area Community Foundation
Coming Together to Listen for Good
Author: Tara Weese
In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” When it comes to Spartanburg, collaboration is a key cornerstone to ensuring that we are maximizing resources and achieving maximum results. Some of these strategic partnerships expand well beyond the corners of our county, aligning with funding partners across the country.
The Listen for Good initiative is one such example of philanthropy innovatively coming together to create positive impact in communities across the United States. Housed at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Fund for Shared Insight was created in 2014 through a collaboration of funders who had the desire to pool philanthropic dollars to make a greater impact. They developed Listen for Good, which is dedicated to building the practice of listening to the people organizations seek to help.
This past spring, The Spartanburg County Foundation was made aware of Listen for Good through an e-newsletter that was distributed by SECF. Upon learning more about this opportunity and its potential positive impact on a Spartanburg County nonprofit, Spartanburg County Foundation staff immediately reached out to our colleagues at the Mary Black Foundation to explore partnering together to nominate a local nonprofit for consideration.
Moving Forward – By Stepping Back to Our Beginning
Author: Davette Swiney
This month, Central Kentucky Community Foundation in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and Elizabethtown Community and Technical College announced a new strategic partnership. The partnership, intending to strengthen both organizations and ultimately the community, is a throwback to the birth of both organizations.
In the late 1950s, one local man, Jim Collier, rallied a few community champions to help him launch an effort to bring higher education to our region. In 1960, their work resulted in the formation of the North Central Education Foundation (NCEF). The foundation raised local money and worked with state and local officials to draft and eventually pass legislation to form the community college system in Kentucky.
NCEF raised money and purchased 227 acres for Elizabethtown Community College and, when state funding fell short, even provided the money needed to finish initial construction so the college’s first class could begin school in 1964. At the same time, NCEF also raised money for scholarships so students would be able to attend the local college.
One Foundation, Three Perspectives on SECF's Essential Skills & Strategies
Author: Anna Sims, Josina Greene & Kelli Parker
Editor’s Note: On January 31 – February 1 this year, three staff members from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley (CFCV) attended SECF’s Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers in Atlanta. Each of them took the time to offer some thoughts on their experience.
A Few Lessons Learned
Anna Sims, Grants and Communication Associate
Oftentimes in life, the best way to learn is to just do it – to simply jump in and get to it! That’s a large part of how I’ve learned what I’ve learned as the grants and communication associate at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley after nearly two years. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we may have missed some key pieces to the puzzle.
We can only do so much with our limited time day to day, which is why it’s such a valuable opportunity to attend a workshop like Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers, hosted by SECF. This seminar reinforced much of what I’ve learned on the job. But it also introduced some key themes that I’ve never had the opportunity to learn and explore.
One of those key concepts, part of the Making Sound Funding Recommendations section, involved learning what healthy financials should look like when examining a grantee and making a sound funding recommendation. We studied key financial documents, such as 990s, balance sheets and income statements.