Strengthening Communities

Monday, January 16, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day), a federal holiday in the U.S. The fact that a federal holiday was designated to commemorate the birthdate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is significant - only two other figures have national holidays in the U.S. honoring them: George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

The Council on Foundations partnered with the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy on a special issue of The Foundation Review examining the Future of Community. The issue explores aspects of the relationship between foundations and communities, addressing topics such as the redefinition of community, the effect of evolving demographics, and potential solutions to climate change.

Leadership attracts assets and each day community foundations are maximizing opportunities in the community for growth and impact. Yet, community foundations are still grappling with ways to prioritize and balance community leadership and donor engagement, as well as how to finance and measure their work inclusive of all organizational investments beyond traditional grantmaking and convening. And, to do this work with even greater speed, sophistication, and coordinated effort across the organization and community.

When leaders from approximately 48 Pennsylvania-based foundations gathered in State College in April for the Council on Foundations’ Pennsylvania Philanthropy Conference, the negative effects of the state’s infamous nine-month budget impasse on human service delivery were painfully fresh. Nonprofits, especially agencies with state and county contracts, were worn down by months of financial uncertainty. Staff and clients felt underserved by elected officials of both parties in Harrisburg.

I have attended a lot of conferences over the years and have always felt driven to go to as many sessions as possible, to gather information and knowledge to bring back to my colleagues at the Maine Community Foundation. This time around was no different: I set out to get the latest on National Standards, to explore issues related to endowed philanthropy, to learn how community foundations and United Ways can do more together.

On November 8, 2015, millions in Myanmar went to the polls to cast their votes – many for the first or second time in their lives – for members of the Union Parliament as well as for the 14 state and region parliaments. After decades of military rule, this marked the country’s first election in which all political parties participated, and on March 15, the new Parliament elected the new president, Htin Kyaw. To bridge this crucial voter information gap, The Asia Foundation turned to Myanmar’s small but rapidly growing tech community. On September 12, just two months before elections, more than 130 developers and designers in 30 teams entered the MaePaySoh Hack Challenge, a competition to create mobile and web applications that are user-friendly, fun, and full of essential information for voters about the general elections.