Partnerships and Collaborations

The International Youth Foundation recently released a report that looks at the growing education and social challenges facing youth around the world. Commissioned by Microsoft, it underlines the emergence of an worldwide opportunity divide among young people.

At the invitation of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media (GFEM) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Games for Change is part of the curatorial team introducing a new theme around games that will run throughout the Annual Conference of the Council on Foundations. CoF is a national non-profit, membership association whose members’ collective assets exceed $300 billion. The Conference attracts over 1,000. We see it as an important opportunity to showcase concrete examples of the manner in which games are supporting philanthropic investments and can be used effectively as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.

“Los Angeles: America, Only Sooner” John Deasy, our dynamic new superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), recently used that phrase to describe Los Angeles at a recent convening of funders.

Every year, International Corporate Philanthropy Day is observed on the last Monday in February to “raise awareness of corporate-community partnerships and inspire businesses around the world to engage further.” But did you know that the three most important words in the previous sentence are corporate-community partnerships?

There has never been a more challenging time for philanthropy. Globalization, natural disasters, and economic turmoil have placed additional stresses on social safety nets already stretched to the max. In this environment, the philanthropic sector must be smarter, more adaptable, and more collaborative.

“If we are not at the table, we run the risk of being on the menu.” How I remember that comment from last year’s Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). Sure enough, we had a close call this past season with efforts to trim the charitable deduction. This alone provides a major incentive for CMF and our members to again come together and join colleagues from across the country for FOTH on March 21-22.

The call came to West Central Initiative early in the work day on Dec. 17: Minnesota was one of nine states chosen for the Department of Education’s Race to the Top early childhood challenge grant. We greeted the news with excitement. West Central Initiative is part of a group of Minnesota organizations that created the Start Early Funders Coalition for Children and Minnesota’s Future, which helped shepherd Minnesota’s Race to the Top grant proposal through the process. At 11 a.m., I received another call inviting me to attend the 2 p.m. press conference at the state capitol. It usually takes three hours just to get to the outskirts of the Twin Cities from our offices in Fergus Falls, but that didn’t stop me. Within minutes, I was in my car and made it to the capitol with 10 minutes to spare. Once there, I was thrilled to be invited to stand at the podium along with other early childhood partners. When Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton asked if anyone at the podium wished to speak, I couldn’t help myself. I took the opportunity to thank all of the Minnesota early childhood educators and care providers who have been working so hard for our youngest children and who will be instrumental in carrying out the grant.

It can be frustrating to look for useful bits of information on grantees and strong programs inside an agency that produces large amounts of data each and every day. Since its inception two years ago, our Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (IPI) has fielded a variety of requests from funders seeking alignment on Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grantees, program strategies, and leverage opportunities. Together with our philanthropic partners, HUD and IPI understand that effective collaboration requires transparency, communication, and easy, timely access to information.

Jillian Vukusich of the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties blogs about the “Fusion” taking place in her community, the site of the February 2012 conference. Read about how funders, nonprofits, government, and other entities in the region are partnering to improve the lives of children.