Having recently transitioned from the world of politics to that of ‘foundationland,’ I was excited to attend my first CoF Conference and help reaffirm in my own mind how foundations can play a more dynamic role in their local communities through a modernization process of what I have been commonly referring to around the offices of The San Diego Foundation as Foundations 2.0.
Last week I represented IISC as a presenter/facilitator in a “deep dive” session at the Council on Foundations Conference for Community Foundations. The title of the session was “Complete Capital” and was inspired by an SSIR article by the same title written by Antony Bugg-Levine of the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). Briefly, complete capital is a framework to help funders and other investors develop a fuller picture of the assets required to address complex social challenges: financial, intellectual, human, and social.
Throughout the fall conference, I had been prefacing every comment or question, every new introduction, with “I’m brand new, only six weeks in as a program officer.” I heard many others, too, more than I expected, who are only a few months, or, in several cases, a few days into the incredible (and exciting and overwhelming) world of community foundations. The plenaries, the sessions, and especially the colleagues at our tables from all across the country were our education this week.
The Center for Effective Philanthropy recently released a report titled Working Well With Grantees, and as any program officer might expect, the importance of the relationships that nonprofit applicants and grantees have with program officers is crucial to their perception of the foundation. Not surprisingly, negative experiences like those chronicled in the report can have real consequences for both the foundation and the nonprofit.
Government officials, philanthropists, and foundation staff often discuss the importance of providing services to our veterans and their families. However, we don’t often link the importance of those services to protecting the all voluntary military force. Today’s working lunch emphasized the importance of supporting our volunteers and then did a deeper dive on exactly how we do that through public-private partnership.
I attended the “What is place-based philanthropy?” site visit, and it got me thinking about the role of private business in community foundation projects. There are fruitful relationships and productive roles we could do more to develop, and San Diego has some interesting models.
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.
At the “Trends and Realities” plenary, the panelists all recognized economic issues in their communities as being among those things that kept them up at night. But my biggest take-away came from Mariam Noland, President of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan.
Across the country, community foundations are recognizing the power of public policy work to advance their missions. Some do so by awarding grants for advocacy activities like public education and research. Others support nonprofits to lobby. And many others engage in advocacy themselves by taking positions on issues they care about.
While folks here in California are no strangers to the earth moving beneath their feet, they are currently witnessing a seismic shift of another kind. Earlier this year, for the first time, the population of Latinos in California equaled the number of whites. And by early 2014, California will likely become the second state in which Latinos are the largest racial or ethnic group (New Mexico being the first).