Public-Philanthropic Partnerships

In 2008, during the Obama Administration’s transition, Valerie Jarrett, now Senior Advisor to President Obama, was the featured speaker at a Council Policy Forum. She asked foundations to become partners in the social innovation agenda the incoming Administration was committed to incorporate into its policies and programs. The Policy Forum attendees responded positively, and in an effort to provide a coordinated response, the Council organized a formal public-philanthropic partnership initiative. The goal then was to broaden the reach of philanthropy's investments by creating an avenue for the federal government to leverage its initiatives with the missions of foundations. That goal has remained durable to this day. We understand that, while there is a complexity in working in partnership with the federal government, there is a logical intermediary role for the Council in cultivating meaningful interactions between foundations and the national government.

The positioning of the Council in this leadership role complements the Council's long standing work with Congress as a policy voice for foundations and is designed to ensure that philanthropy is strategically positioned with the Executive Branch departments and agencies as well. The focus of our work has been to create an organized pathway for foundations to take advantage of the unique confluence of opportunities and active interest in such partnerships across the government. The Council has been purposeful in building its leadership "brand" in this policy arena as an intermediary, not a gatekeeper, to facilitate foundations and government agencies seeking partnerships or engagements to support mutual goals.

What is the role of the Council?

  • Build and maintain active relationships with Executive Branch entities and the White House
  • Host a bi-monthly meeting with federal department and agency representatives charged with developing strategic partnerships with the private sector
  • To identify emerging initiatives or policy development opportunities that might be of interest to foundations, and vice versa, to seek out federal connections for foundations’ priorities.
  • Create opportunities for Council members to meet face to face with federal officials and to identify key federal staff that Council members are looking to meet.

How can you get involved?

Contact Stephanie Powers at stephanie.powers@cof.org.

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