While many think of the Cleveland Office of the Foundation Center to be focused on Northeast Ohio, our service area is truly regional in scope. Our Funding Information Network partners are located in 13 states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin) With so much dynamism going on in the region, I will be sharing best practices, innovative programming and replicable models that reflect the social sector in action. It is my hope that this will engender dialog and build community.
Moving Ahead of The Curve
The traditional giving model in philanthropy has been predicated on a relatively passive approach on the part of foundations. They have relied on nonprofit organizations to articulate community needs through their funding requests. Investments have then been made based on their alignment with funders’ mission and funding priorities.
This giving model and focus is beginning to shift
Community foundations in specific are moving to a new model in which they are using their influence (in areas such as economic and workforce development) to drive investment and funding priorities. This model is predicated on foundations going into the community and working with residents, city, and civic leaders to identify opportunities for investment. The underlying premise of this model is that funders can no longer afford (or desire) to work in a responsive mode, rather they seek to proactively leverage their endowments to achieve the greatest possible impact toward their mission.
Case In Point: Richland County Community Foundation
A great example of this is what is happening in Mansfield, Ohio. On a recent trip to the Funding Information Network (FIN) library in Mansfield, I saw a city transformed. The repurposed development was obvious and it was clear that it is a city that has benefited from significant new investments. During my FIN visit, a presentation by Allie Watson, program officer, at the Richland County Community Foundation provided some context. Not unlike what is happening in Cleveland, (and Grand Rapids, MI; Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; etc.) the Richland County Community Foundation has stepped up with catalytic community investment to help spur economic development and growth.
It started with a small opportunity, according to Brady Groves, President of the Richland County Community Foundation and native of Mansfield. In 2012, an anonymous donor with an interest in historic preservation donated a home built in the 1890s. This provided the opportunity for the foundation to put its money where its mouth was. Instead of sitting back and talking about community development, they could now put a stake in the ground and help lead the way in a blighted community.
This investment in the community spurred more investment. Business owners have invested in their property and new investment is happening in the surrounding streets. Now what visitors see when they enter the city is new development instead of blight.
As with most of philanthropy, the success of these foundation’s initiatives are based on relationships. Because the Richland County Community Foundation has such strong relationships with the city (Brady Groves meets with the Mayor of Mansfield regularly) and their donors, they are able to serve as a neutral convener, bringing stakeholders to the table that might not otherwise participate. By showing that they are willing to invest in the community, they are able demonstrate their commitment and bring others along with them. Together, this group of partners has been able to create jobs, build wealth and stimulate investment in Mansfield.
Regional Training Specialist
For more information about the Richland County Community Foundation visit their website: http://www.richlandcountyfoundation.org/