A packed room came to hear how community foundations are successfully listening and responding to their communities. The work we heard about was innovative, sometimes controversial, and completely inspiring.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) facilitated conversation about the work of 12 community foundations from across the country. The community foundations’ were highlighted for their outstanding work that can be replicated by their colleagues nationwide.
We understand some conference attendees were unable to hear the session. Here are brief descriptions of the projects based on the press release from NCRP, community foundation websites, and the information shared at the session:
Foundation for Louisiana: President and CEO Flozell Daniels shared his foundation’s work on Investing in Citizen Engagement. The Foundation believes that residents play a critical role in planning the future of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. They offer citizen guides on land use and urban design as well as hosting sessions to share how to activate the community and create a community agenda based on neighborhood dialogue.
California Community Foundation: President and CEO Antonia Hernandez shared that LA has immigrants representing every single country in the world. Therefore, regardless of where each community member is from, the integration of immigrants is, a critical issue for L.A. CCF advocates for immigrant integration through sustained community engagement and collaboration. CCF’s success includes a multi-sector 35-member Council on Immigration Integration, grants to community-based organization that develop leadership skills among immigrant resident, and research to provide facts that help set the context and framework for their work.
Marin Community Foundation: In mixed income communities, sometimes it is difficult for community members to identify and understand the issues their neighbors face. Marin Community Foundation recognized that the community needed facts on the issues their neighbors were facing so that the community foundation could create opportunities to dialogue about those issues. They commissioned research and reported the findings back to the community. As a result of sharing facts, the community has better conversation about how to meet the needs of their neighbors and the community foundation has better information on how to utilize grant dollars to meet community needs.
The Cleveland Foundation: Cleveland Foundation is proud to be the largest sponsor of the Gay Games. The Games is the largest international sports and culture festival in the world open to all participants. Involvement provides us the community foundation to express our strong support for social justice and equality for the LGBT community. The foundation recognized the broad community support for the Games. As a result of the partnership between Cleveland Foundation and the Gay Games, an LGBT field-of-interest fund is being established at the foundation.
Greater New Orleans Foundation: The IMPACT program’s goal is to create a resilient, sustainable, vibrant, and equitable region in which individuals and families flourish and where the special character of the New Orleans region and its people is preserved, celebrated, and given means to develop. The grants combine much needed financial support for nonprofit services with learning among the community, nonprofits and foundations. This learning leads to a better understanding of who the neighborhood-known community leaders are.
Boston Foundation: The Boston Foundation led a partnership that commissioned a report on mass transportation in the City of Boston. The report aptly titled The Cost of Doing Nothing addresses the economic and social costs when municipalities don’t invest in transportation. The report agitated community conversation and focused community activism resulting in new transit stops.
Silicon Valley Community Foundation: Silicon Valley Community Foundation combines research, advocacy efforts, and grantmaking strategy to stop payday lending. The community foundation supports organizations working to pass local ordinances curtailing payday loans and raise public awareness about their dangers.
East Bay Community Foundation: East Bay Community Foundation has a public-private partnership team that provides a framework for their innovative work. EBCF connects and leverages efforts to help low-income families get a financial leg up and to help adults acquire skills and find good jobs. Recognizing the persistent economic and educational disparities in the East Bay – a local symptom of a nationwide problem — they focused on good jobs and the education that leads to them. Through locally-based research and deep partnerships with job-training and economic-development programs that get results and are respected in their community, EBCF promote pathways to economic security for East Bay residents with barriers to employment.
North Star Fund: Within 24 hours of Hurrican Sandy, it was clear that the immediate response to the storm was being handled by community-based organizations at the neighborhood level. North Star Fund established the Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund to help the most vulnerable communities recover. The Grassroots Hurricane Relief Fund is unique in prioritizing organizations led by communities most affected by injustice.
Minnesota Community Foundation: GiveMN.org helps grow charitable giving and make it more efficient by moving more of it online. GiveMN helps people connect with worthy organizations and manage their charitable giving. GiveMN also provides nonprofit organizations with free online profiles and tools to help them engage donors and tell their stories. GiveMN is a collaborative venture that was conceived and initiated by the board of Minnesota Community Foundation. It has strong partner support from foundations across the state, including The Saint Paul Foundation, the Otto Bremer Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation.
Lara Kalwinski is Policy & Strategy Associate, Director of National Standards at the Council on Foundations