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Distinctive Grantmaking

Grantmakers are Free to be Bold

be ready for bold smRecently we witnessed a grant application from a small charter elementary school in an economically struggling port city spark a private foundation’s five trustees’ enthusiasm in an unusual way. What happened next affirmed our belief that the time funders spend working on process, clarifying their goals, and developing partnerships with their grantees leads to trusting relationships and confident philanthropic investment.

The program described in the application was a perfect fit with the foundation’s stated desire to help individuals realize their full potential while utilizing existing resources and leveraging the community’s strengths. Trustees saw strength in this low-profile independent program’s adoption of acknowledged best practices; the administrators relied on volunteers, collaborated with existing service providers to meet scholars’ needs, and targeted students and families least likely to seek enhanced educational opportunities on their own.

After making a grant at the requested level, the board invited the school’s founding director to their next meeting for a conversation about the school’s progress and plans. This candid discussion further solidified the trustees’ positive impression of the program. They also learned that the school had just launched a campaign to replace their facility, an aging former public school building.

Enthusiastic about the school’s results, the trustees acted immediately and decisively. Learning about the foundation’s unexpected $500,000 capital grant on his drive home from the meeting, the school’s director called it a “game changer.” Likewise, the trustees were elated.

What inspires a private foundation to move beyond business as usual? How do trustees recognize the right time and the right opportunity for bold action? How might a grant that is transformative for the recipient also affect the giver?

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Back to Out-of-School

NPO Conversation at GMA: Wednesday, September 10

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We invite leaders of nonprofit organizations to join us each quarter for a brown-bag lunch discussion about issues, ideas, and concerns in the nonprofit and philanthropic community. The meetings are a time for us to “talk shop” and move beyond the usual conversation between foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Each session focuses on a particular topic, and reservations are required. Guests will learn a little about GMA and a lot about their peers’ perspectives on important issues.

Topic for Conversation: Back to Out-of School

School-age children spend the majority of their time outside the classroom. For years, the nonprofit sector has helped to fill the gap, providing quality after-school and summer experiences. In today’s competitive and shifting global economy, we look to out-of-school time programs to narrow the academic achievement gap, through after-school enrichment and college access programs, and summer vacation programming designed to reduce learning loss.

Have we gone too far? Some would argue that the best learning takes place in less conventional places, in the freedom of unstructured and unusual activity. Seemingly unproductive activities have the capacity to transform individuals and the communities they share. Continue Reading »

Increases in our clients’ grantmaking profiled

Grants 2013 GMA Foundations’ Grants 2013 report released

Forty independent and corporate foundations and individual donors working with Boston-based GMA Foundations increased their giving in 2013 to a combined total of $37.3 million, up nearly 20% from the previous year. The philanthropic advisory firm’s newly released report describes the grantmaking reach of its clients, who awarded more than 1,500 grants to 1,100 nonprofits around the world.

Reflecting stronger investment returns, the amount of the average grant increased 9% over the prior year to $23,565. “We look to the nonprofit sector for innovation, agility, and strong connections to the community,” says Phil Hall, GMA’s Director of Grantmaking.  “Operating on a small scale, these nonprofit organizations are leading the way to social change, and we are proud to support them.”

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