March 19, 2015

Can place-based grantmaking help turn the tide of inequality?

By Dennis Quirin and Steve Patrick

Today we see many local communities – urban, suburban and rural - swamped by historic disinvestment and the growing tide of economic and social inequality in our country. Place-based grantmaking can play an important role in turning this tide,
but not without addressing the core structural barriers that have produced and propelled it. In local communities, addressing the lived experiences of people who are marginalized by racism, poverty, immigration status, gender discrimination, homophobia and disability will require many funders to retool their approaches to understanding and solving systemic community problems.

Fortunately, in recent years there has been renewed interested in deeper community investment among many national and regional foundations. The pendulum has begun to swing back to place-based grantmaking – and the opportunity exists for the field to learn from the challenges of the past, as well as from promising practice.

Last fall a group of over 100 funders and field leaders met at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, CO for Towards a Better Place, Promising Practices in Place-Based Grantmaking . Place-based grantmaking is not new; in fact you can argue that it’s the oldest form of grantmaking. The recent resurgence of interest in place-based grantmaking, especially on the part of larger funders, presents an opportunity for historically marginalized communities. There isn’t one way to approach place-based grantmaking, nor is there a robust field of practice to support it. Yet all who gathered agreed that this is an opportunity that we can ill afford to get wrong.

When the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and Neighborhood Funders Group organized the conference last September, our intent was to start a national conversation that would be relevant for a wide range of funders who design strategic place-based initiatives, as well as funders based in the communities where they fund. While these two broad categories of funders often have very different approaches, we believe that there is an important conversation that is relevant to both groups of funders. That shared conversation centers on the practice or craft of place-based grantmaking, which served as the guiding theme for our conference.

To help share the rich discussions and learnings from the conference, the NFG and the Aspen Forum have just released a conference report and resource guide for place-based grantmakers. Some of the key lessons shared at the conference include:

  • Make the shift from being a grantmaker to a changemaker and co-learner. To be a changemaker, program officers must be co-learners with those doing work on the ground rather than “coming with the answers.
  • Keep equity at the center. Place-based investors have to bring an equity lens to the work. They must ask critical questions about who holds the power in communities? Who is being served? Who is at the table and who needs to be?
  • Resource community engagement and collaboration. It is not enough to just provide project grants. The foundation must also deploy resources to ensure that residents are deeply involved in the process.
  • Make a long-term commitment. Staying a long time allows you to gain greater perspective on the place, learn what the community wants, and avoid making incorrect assumptions. And long-term commitment makes deep collaboration possible.
  • Coordinate multiple funders working in the same place. Funder alignment and coordination can significantly ease burdens on community groups, for example by developing common learning metrics. Coordinating funder efforts also creates the potential to multiply the impacts of their investments in the same place.
  • Co-invest in good work that is already happening or emerging from community partners. Don’t force collaborations or initiatives. Rather than coming with the issues, figure out with the community what would make a big impact and build on what is ripe there.
  • Leverage the foundation’s name and status to increase visibility and access of partners on the ground.  Foundations engaged in place-based work can do much more than just funding – for example developing relationships, positioning community partners in a way that is influential and engaging in policy advocacy.
  • Learn as you go and be open to different pathways to success. Often in place-based work, the outcomes that have been most successful were unplanned and unforeseen. They arose from long-term relationship building and the development of new leadership that didn’t exist in the beginning.

The problems facing marginalized communities today are weighty and complex, and no conference will solve them. But the beginning conversations at Towards a Better Place lifted up some important lessons from place-based grantmaking that can help funders rethink their strategies and practices. The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and NFG will continue providing opportunities for funders to engage with peers on these questions. We invite more funders to join our learning community and help develop the kinds of partnerships in places that can better position communities to address the root causes of inequality.

Dennis Quirin is the President of Neighborhood Funders Group. Steve Patrick is the Executive Director of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.

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December 10, 2018

Welcome to the new NFG website!

Thank you for visiting Neighborhood Funders Group's new website! We've completely redesigned and improved how it works to make it easier than ever for our members to use as an online resource.

We're currently in soft launch mode before we publicly announce the new site in 2019, so thanks for taking an initial sneak peek! Please excuse our digital dust as we finish testing all of the features of our new website. You can find a temporary archive of our old site at old.nfg.org.

What new features can you find on the site?

  • Search the entire website for news, events, and resources using the search bar at the top of every page
  • See where all of the members of our national network are based, right on our member map 
  • Discover more related content, tagged by topic and format, at the bottom of every page
  • Look up NFG member organizations in our member directory
  • Log in to view individual contacts in the member directory and register for events in the future

If your organization is an NFG member, first check to see if your account has already been created for you. Click "Forgot Password" on the log in page and try entering your work email address to activate your account and set your password.

Let us know at support@nfg.org if you come across any issues logging in, or anywhere else on the site. Stay tuned for our official launch announcement, and thanks for visiting!

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January 22, 2019

Welcome Faron McLurkin, Sr. Program Manager of the Integrated Rural Strategies Group

Faron McLurkinFaron McLurkin has joined NFG’s staff as the Senior Program Manager for the Integrated Rural Strategies Group (IRSG), which brings together funders working to build long-term support for rural organizing infrastructure that centers values of racial justice and builds sustainable power in rural communities. 

Faron was a founding member of IRSG in his former role as Program Officer at the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock (Veatch). During his time at Veatch, Faron oversaw its New York state and Environmental Justice portfolios. He has also served as the Executive Director of the Center for Third World Organizing, one of the oldest racial justice organizations in the country, and as a national organizing director for several unions.

In his new role leading IRSG, Faron will utilize his background in political education, philanthropic grantmaking, and organizing for social change to help drive the growth and advancement of the group’s programming. His focus will include developing programming for funder audiences to promote rural organizing opportunities; creating vehicles for moving resources to support rural communities; and identifying grantmaking strategies, grantees, and partners in the field to inform this group’s work.

To learn more about IRSG and how to get involved, get in touch with Faron at faron@nfg.org
 

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