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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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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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Implicit Bias Affects All of Us

by Chaletta Huertas
This post appeared originally in the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s column, Voices from the Field.

clothes wringer_rounded_cornersHistorically, only a small percentage of philanthropic dollars goes to communities of color, goes to organizations led by people of color, or comes from people of color.  For many people, the word ‘philanthropist’ itself conjures up images of elderly white gentlemen in business suits.

Has this changed much in today’s society which some would call ‘post-racial’?

No.  The Greenlining Institute reports that communities of color receive less than 5 percent of all charitable donations from the more than 72,000 foundations in the country (A Promise to Diverse Communities: Summary of the Foundation Coalition’s Efforts, Avis Atkins and Orson Aguilar, June 2012).

In reality only “10 percent of all charitable deductions are directed at the poor,” according to Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley.


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