The Changing Role of Community Foundations
At our weekly updates, I regularly ask the Philanthropy Ohio staff: what has delighted you recently? Most often they share comments about the relationships they have with you, our members, and about the great and interesting work you are doing. Of course the delightful possibility of sunny and warm weather is also mentioned, as are new puppies and healthy families, but most of the comments are about you.
To me, it is vital that we all find delight and joy in the work we do, and this premise was shared by the leaders who joined our Community Foundation Leadership Forum held this last week. Leaders who’ve been with their community foundations less than a month to those seasoned professionals with more than a decade at the helm shared what delights them, challenges them and worries them.
But underlying the entire day’s conversation was the understanding that the role of the community foundation as the good steward of invested funds is the old paradigm. Changes taking place in philanthropy are redefining the role of the community foundation, and as one participant stated, “Community foundations are the new ‘whiteboards’ for community issues.”
Other comments I heard include:
“We need to work together as community foundations to develop and work an agenda focused on learning from each other and leadership.”
“For new community foundation leaders, like myself, the networking component of these types of gatherings is probably the most valuable of all.”
“It’s the small-group conversations, where we compare notes on scholarship software, administration fees, engaging our agency partners, staffing issues, donor development methods and ‘how did you handle this-or-that?’ that I really enjoy.”
And the take-away for me was that community foundations are constantly balancing their three primary roles:
- Grantmakers and the community-focused vehicle for philanthropy
- Donor-centric leaders with macroscopic view convening, guiding and advising the community
- Endowment-builders who keep the community’s assets working in the community.
I look forward to great ideas and more meaningful exchanges from this group!
Special thanks to Philanthropy Ohio board vice chair Melissa Kleptz, with assistance from Brady Groves, Brian Frederick and Marlene Casini, who helped organize and host the event, and to Connie Hawk and Brian Frederick who shared actual work they are engaged in and the challenges they’ve faced.
I am continuously amazed at our members’ progressive thinking and the work you do on behalf of the ultimate beneficiaries of your grants. Your work changes lives, families and communities. I’d love to hear more about your work and what delights you!
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.