Two years ago, the Foundation Registry i3 was a lifesaver for me. I was working as a philanthropic advisor and was looking for an opportunity to lead a group of emerging philanthropists interested in education reform from talking about collaboration to taking action. The U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) competitive grants program seemed tailor-made for my crowd: a marketplace of ideas, evidence-based approaches, and five-to-one leverage. I informed several dozen high-net-worth donors about the i3 program and vetted the highest-rated applicants based on the quality of their project designs, evidence and evaluation, capacity, financial review, and need for a match. My clients pooled over $5 million in flexible new funds to provide matches for i3 projects working in sixteen states and D.C. and, along with other private funders, leveraged $145 million in public funds.
Twelve years ago, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation tried what it thought was an unconventional move. Anxious to jump-start the downtown area, the foundation convened community and political leaders to devise a strategy for reclaiming the area where our city was born.
Last week, The Merck Company Foundation launched a new three-year, $3 million initiative, the HIV Care Collaborative for Underserved Populations in the United States, to help the local health departments in Atlanta, Houston, and Philadelphia connect more people living with HIV/AIDS to the care they need to stay healthy.
They say two heads are better than one … but how about hundreds of heads? All focused on exploring future possibilities and challenges with the goal to create new realities?
Collaborating for greater impact starts with nonprofit leaders who develop wide-reaching social networks, communicate clearly about their missions and objectives, and are flexible about how those objectives are met. Funders are uniquely positioned to recognize these leaders and create greater impact together.
The opening of the new Louisiana State University and VA Medical complex slated for 2014–2015 in downtown New Orleans is about to open up hundreds of jobs online to service and run these medical centers. Will the unemployed residents of New Orleans get hired? The Greater New Orleans Foundation recently convened health care and biotech employers to help relay their frontline needs to local service and training providers in order to maximize the employability of New Orleans’ low-skilled workers.
That’s an old saying, but in Cincinnati, the decision to adopt employer-driven career pathways as a workforce strategy had many “parents.” Career pathways help align training for individuals with employers’ needs, close skills gaps, and develop talent-supply chains for in-demand careers. It takes collaboration and buy-in across employment sectors, education institutions, and community organizations, plus the support of public, private, and philanthropic funders to be successful.
How should a mid-sized foundation position its initiatives in this age of austerity and how can one county and community foundation influence state-level decisions? These are questions that the Erie Community Foundation asked when it planned an early childhood education initiative more than a year ago, knowing that it would not be able to increase slots through increased state subsidies.
With one-third of Americans still lacking broadband Internet connections at home, access to the internet is often considered an equity issue. Yet programs aimed at narrowing the digital divide may leave their strongest legacies in the areas of community and economic development. Online access is a gateway to opportunities in education, workforce, and health, and other areas that increasingly depend on digital access and digital skills.
I see collaborative work and outcomes management as two sides of the same “working smarter” coin. I discussed outcomes management in my first post in this series, and my organization, Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), has embraced its importance. VPP is committed to learning from our work, and although the nonprofit partnerships we fund have been successful, we recognize there is more we can do with the resources available. By tracking and assessing our progress along the way, we have seen that the best way to “work smarter” is through collaborative action. Without the first side of the coin—outcomes management, we would not have reached the other side—collaboration. Without collaboration, the data we collect is too limited to get a full picture of our region and what its children and youth need.