The Importance of Philanthropy Infrastructure — Guest Post

How One Foundation Invested Deeply in Philanthropy Infrastructure to Deepen Its Learning & Focus

At United Philanthropy Forum we recently highlighted how philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett provided notable support to philanthropy infrastructure organizations as part of their most recent round of grants, underscoring the value and importance of these groups to our sector and our communities. In fact, a recent analysis by Bloomberg showed that 32 percent of Scott/Jewett grants to date have gone to philanthropy infrastructure organizations. It’s encouraging to see this level of support for groups that are so vital to philanthropy in our country.

There is another funder that has been investing deeply in philanthropy infrastructure for a number of years, but its support has been under the radar—until now. A new report developed by The Giving Practice tells the story of how the Satterberg Foundation in Seattle has made unprecedented investments in four regional philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs)—all Forum members—over more than half a decade. The foundation has viewed these four philanthropy infrastructure groups—Philanthropy NorthwestNorthern California GrantmakersSoCal Grantmakers, and Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties—as vital partners in the regions where it funds, to help the foundation, in the words of Satterberg Foundation Executive Director Sarah Walczyk, “gain a deeper understanding of the key issues at play in our sector to further hone our foundation funding focus for the future.”

Through its Community Partnerships program, the foundation has provided two rounds of three-year general operating support grants to each of the four PSOs, in amounts ranging from $750,000 to $1,000,000 per year. The grants were open-ended and flexible and came with streamlined grant reporting requirements. A key focus of the funding was on foundation learning, emphasizing “learning together, shared inquiry and sense-making.”

The report makes clear that the foundation went into these partnerships without a lot of expectations or a theory of change. The foundation’s board was not focused on achieving impact or interested in getting progress reports. Instead, it viewed the PSOs as trusted places to connect and learn from partners who “better understood the geographic needs of the regions and states than we do,” according to one foundation representative. Trust and relationship-building were the priority, following principles of trust-based philanthropy.

“We had confidence in those organizations,” a foundation representative said in the report. “We always saw PSOs as a place to connect and learn. More recently, we saw them make sense of their role, align values, respond to diverse perspectives, engage in policy change, build their voice, and speak up. We were inspired to see these organizations build a movement of funders working together on community issues.”

The effects of the Satterberg investments on the organizational capacity of the four PSOs were significant and included adding senior staff positions, investing in more staff learning and professional development, increasing staff salaries, investing in better technology, and much more. The investments led to notable innovations in all four of the regional PSOs, most notably in the areas of advancing equity, shaping public policy, partnering with government, and mobilizing support for communities.

A few examples: SoCal Grantmakers is a key partner and fiscal intermediary for the new Veterans Peer Access Network, a public-private partnership that will use $4.3 million in public-private investment to provide peer-based services to help veterans in L.A. County deal with homelessness, health and other issues. Philanthropy Northwest established the WA Food Fund, in partnership with the state of Washington, which has raised more than $16 million to respond to the growing food crisis as a result of COVID-19. Northern California Grantmakers created the Racial Equity Action Institute, which connects racial equity specialists with leaders in philanthropy, government, business and nonprofits to learn and develop actionable strategies for change in their organizations and fields. Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties is administering the Women’s Empowerment Loan Fund, an impact investing fund providing business loans to women of color entrepreneurs who don’t have access to traditional financing options. The report emphasizes that all of these actions, and many others cited in the report, were made possible because of the PSOs’ increased capacity and expertise resulting from the Satterberg Foundation’s investments.

Support from the Satterberg Foundation also provided the capacity for the three California PSOs to create an alliance that is now Philanthropy California, where the three groups work in operations, programs, public policy, membership and communications. One recent result of this alliance: the creation of the position of Senior Advisor on Social Innovation to the Governor, who works together with Philanthropy California to coordinate public-private partnerships in the state.

The foundation’s support also accelerated important shifts in each of the four PSOs that I’ve been noticing in many regional and national PSOs in recent years, including:

  • Widening the scope of their organization’s vision beyond the boundaries of the philanthropy sector to look at what’s good for their broader communities.
  • A stronger focus on equity, particularly racial equity.
  • Shifting from a member service strategy to a change strategy, which involved the PSO taking on a bigger leadership role.
  • Moving from being responsive to members’ needs to be proactive in advancing critical issues through advocacy and mobilization.

In the end, the Satterberg Foundation’s broad and deep support for these four regional PSOs has played a pivotal role in all of them becoming much more dynamic and influential leadership organizations for their regions and the broader field. They are clearly much better positioned to address whatever may come their way in the future. For example, the report notes that all four PSOs “snapped into action” to inform and mobilize their members in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic effects on nonprofits in their regions, in ways that likely would not have been possible without their added capacity. It’s worth imagining the incredibly positive impact for our sector and our communities if similar types of investments were made in all regional and national PSOs in our country.

In the report, a Satterberg Foundation representative notes that some funders still view regional PSOs as “old school”—i.e. “They do a conference,” but that the foundation views PSOs as places for “power building, movement building, policy work, building funds. They’re the place to invest for funders who really want to move an agenda and provide a regional perspective. We need them in philanthropy.”

David Biemesderfer
President & CEO
United Philanthropy Forum
Follow me @dbiemesderfer

Community Leaders Call for More Investment and Focus on Rhode Island’s Nonprofit Sector

Several community leaders — Mario Bueno of Progreso Latino, Anthony Hubbard of YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, Cortney Nicolato of United Way, and Daniel Schliefer of New Urban Arts — published a commentary piece in the Boston Globe on the importance of investing in the capacity and sustainability of the nonprofit sector.

Rhode Island can no longer overlook, and underfund, its nonprofit sector

Over the last 19 months, Rhode Island’s nonprofit organizations have been the heart, hands and feet of Rhode Island’s relief and recovery efforts.  They provided food and shelter to Rhode Islanders in need. Helped underserved communities access testing and vaccines.  Supported children and families with the challenges of distance learning.  Provided physical and behavioral health care.  Helped isolated seniors connect with loved ones and services.  Provided support and training for small businesses and social entrepreneurs.  Trained workers for new jobs.  Uplifted somber days with beautiful music and art.

In some ways, the last year-and-a-half has been a story of unprecedented commitment and heroism. Faced with the confluence of health, economic, and racial justice crises, Rhode Island nonprofits rose to the challenge of skyrocketing need. At great personal and organizational cost, they overcame public health restrictions, inadequate staffing, physical and emotional exhaustion, and fundraising limitations to deliver services in innovative ways. They were a lifeline to thousands of Rhode Islanders during their darkest moments.

In other ways, the commitment and heroism displayed by our state’s nonprofits during the pandemic is completely normal. It is what happens when organizations are driven by mission and collective social benefit.

Every single day, pandemic or not, quiet, essential work is done across Rhode Island by nonprofit organizations.  Skilled, dedicated, compassionate staff work with limited resources to care for our neighbors, empower our children, and build flourishing communities.  Community-based organizations provide the expertise, energy, and innovation to make the state’s vision for strong, equitable, prosperous cities and towns a reality. Every. Single. Day.

And every day, whether in times of crisis or plenty, the state depends on these same nonprofits to make Rhode Island lives and communities better.  Yet, at nearly every turn, this vital sector is under-resourced, stretched thin, and often taken for granted.

Like the steel beams that undergird our bridges, the crucial work of our state’s nonprofits is so integral to the health and well-being of our communities that it can easily be overlooked.  But like our physical infrastructure, our “civic infrastructure” of unheralded nonprofits, collaborative networks, and community-based initiatives cannot continue to carry the weight of our state’s critical needs without comprehensive, long-term investment.

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United Way Invests $175,000 in Olneyville

United Way of Rhode Island has awarded a total of $175,029 in grants to 12 nonprofits for their work to create long-term change in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence where United Way is located. The community investments were awarded from United Way’s special Olneyville Fund and focus on supporting the Lift United goals of its LIVE UNITED 2025 strategic plan to create opportunities for all Rhode Islanders.

A full list of grantee organizations is as follows:

  • Amenity Aid
  • Button Hole
  • Children’s Friend and Service
  • Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic
  • Farm Fresh RI
  • FirstWorks
  • Girls Rock! RI
  • Inspiring Minds
  • Project Weber/RENEW
  • Olneyville Branch: Providence Community Library
  • Reach Out and Read RI
  • YWCA Rhode Island

United Way established the Olneyville Community Fund in 2008 when it relocated to the neighborhood from the city’s East Side. Since, it has used the fund to invest more than $1.2 million to improve services for residents, increase the capacity of community-based organizations, and enhance public spaces.

Nonprofits Receive Nearly $450,000 to Help Rhode Islanders Cope with Continuing Effects of COVID-19 Crisis

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded nearly $450,000 in grants to help Rhode Islanders cope with the continuing effects of the COVID-19 crisis. With these latest grants, the Foundation has awarded more than $21 million in pandemic relief since March 2020.

Grant recipients were:

  • Beautiful Day
  • Be the Change
  • Be Great For Nate
  • Cambodian Society of Rhode Island
  • Centro de Innovacion Mujer Latina
  • College Visions
  • Hope & Main
  • John Hope Settlement House
  • Justice Assistance
  • New Bridges for Haitian Success
  • Oasis International
  • Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corp.
  • Project Weber/RENEW
  • Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts
  • Rhode Island Rescue Ministeries
  • RiverzEdge Arts Project
  • Saint Rose’s Church Corporation
  • Southside Community Land Trust
  • Stages of Freedom
  • Sophia Academy
  • South County Habitat for Humanity
  • The Herren Project
  • The Parent Support Network of Rhode Island
  • The Providence Center
  • The Samaritans of Rhode Island
  • The San Miguel School
  • The Village Common

With this round of funding, Foundation has awarded more than $7.5 million in grants to more than 150 nonprofit organizations since launching its COVID-19 Response Fund last year.

Central Providence Resident Advisory Council awards $100,400 in Community Impact Fund grants

Guest Post from ONE Neighborhood Builders — The Resident Advisory Council (RAC), a group of 16 residents of Central Providence created by ONE Neighborhood Builders, has awarded $100,400 in Community Impact Fund grants to 21 businesses and organizations.
The grants, of up to $5,000 each, are to be used to support creative, community-driven projects that support the goals and objectives of Central Providence Opportunities, a collective-impact initiative to improve economic mobility for residents in the nine neighborhoods located in the 02908 and 02909 ZIP codes.
The RAC took about a month to review and score the grant requests before awarding them in this first funding round. In total, $200,000 has been designated for the Community Impact Fund, and the remaining funds will be awarded in future rounds.
Some of the projects funded would pay for: fencing at Naili Home Childcare on Waldo Street; the purchase of tools to expand the selection of library items that can be borrowed through PVD Things; beautification projects at William D’Abate Elementary School; a community healing and storytelling project from the Wilbury Theatre Group called “Capture the Block”; a job training program for formerly incarcerated people from Garden Time Inc.; and a program called “Museums For All,” by a group called Stages of Freedom, which will help young people from the two zip codes explore race and culture and attend museums at discounted rates.
Shelley Peterson, a member of the RAC, said the grant process “was something that was done by residents, for residents and businesses, so this was a really great way for us to advocate for our neighborhoods.” Peterson pointed to the diverse nature of the RAC and how the group represents the community’s needs and interests.
“I think the RAC was well chosen,” Peterson said. “They created a group that was extremely diverse. … And not only by identity, age, gender, etc., but also by occupation—some of us are educators, students, business owners, and neighborhood volunteers. The wonderful part that brings us all together is that we really care about what happens in our neighborhoods.”
She noted that two of the RAC members, sisters Oluwapelumi “Lumi” Egunjobi and Oluwademilade “Demi” Egunjobi, at ages 16 and 15, respectively, brought a unique perspective to the group, as its youngest members.
“Their perspectives are unique and sometimes what us older RAC members don’t necessarily think of—that point of view from a young adult,” Peterson said of the Classical High School students. “I think it’s wonderful, and I appreciate their experiences and opinions as partners in this.”
Lumi described her experience as “eye-opening.” She said it required her to conduct a lot of research and participate with neighborhood residents in a way she hadn’t before.
“I feel really good,” she said. “I feel like I helped out my community and the people who are living here.”
She said her sister had always been more of an activist and encouraged her to apply for the RAC. But it didn’t take much convincing.
“While I was growing up, I went to a pretty privileged school, like a private school,” she said. “And so I just always saw the disparities between where I live and where other people live, who were my classmates. And I felt it’s my responsibility to give back.”
Her sister, Demi, said the RAC serves dual purposes: It addresses the needs of the community, and it brings people together.
“I feel like these projects are going to give us a chance to get to know each other better,” she said. “I just want more events where we can work on building a tight-knit and supportive community.”
One project that really spoke to her is called “Capture the Block: Community Healing in Storytelling,” which aims to “bring the community together and create [a] shared space for healing.”
“The pandemic has really had a big impact on our community, especially low-income residents,” Demi said.
“And so having a space for residents to connect, become acquainted, and talk about what we all experienced through this pandemic is crucial.”
For more information about the Community Impact Fund and the Resident Advisory Council, visit: https://oneneighborhoodbuilders.org/central-providence-opportunities.
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ONE|NB is the convening entity of the Central Providence Health Equity Zone, which brings together residents, community organizations, health professionals, and others to address root causes of health disparities, and of the Central Providence Collaborative, which includes more than four dozen community-based organizations, local businesses, residents, and elected officials who work together to improve neighborhood conditions. ONE|NB is the backbone organization of Central Providence Opportunities, a collective-impact initiative to increase economic mobility for residents in Central Providence. ONE|NB also created the first free community wireless network in Rhode Island, providing high-speed broadband to about 1,000 users in the Olneyville neighborhood.

Safe Haven for Afghans and Haitians in Crisis — Guest Post from GCIR

In light of the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and Haiti, we are sharing the following post from our sister organization, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR):

Safe Haven for Afghans and Haitians in Crisis

We at GCIR are heartbroken about the devastating crises unfolding in Afghanistan and Haiti. In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the collapse of the Afghan government, and the Taliban’s takeover, many Afghans are fleeing for their lives. Meanwhile, the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that recently struck Haiti heightens the urgency of Haitians seeking refuge at the southern U.S. border and the need for Haitians currently residing here to remain. As large numbers of people are being uprooted from their homes, we believe the United States can and must lead the world in protecting these refugees and offering humanitarian assistance.

In response to the events in Afghanistan, an immediate, large-scale evacuation effort and a significantly increased U.S. refugee admissions cap are imperative. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans are at risk in the wake of the Taliban takeover, tens of thousands of whom are in danger due to their association with the U.S. mission. Only 16,000 Afghans have been given protection in the United States since 2014 through the Special Immigrant Visa program, and an estimated 18,000 Afghan allies and 53,000 family members remain in the processing backlog. As the Taliban consolidates power in the coming days and weeks, the window for taking action is rapidly closing.

Haiti’s recent earthquake left at least 1,419 people dead and more than 6,900 injured, a toll that is expected to rise in the coming days. This disaster, coming on the heels of accelerating political turmoil in Haiti, makes it all the more important that Haitians already in the United States are not compelled to return to a perilous situation and that those who have fled to safety have access to asylum and humane treatment when crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Although the Biden administration extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to additional Haitians in May, it is also crucial to halt deportations for Haitians present in the United States today and for Congress to establish a pathway to citizenship for TPS holders and others.

We urge philanthropy to:

Beyond these current crises, the U.S. refugee resettlement system is in great need of rebuilding and strengthening. The administration is on track to admit fewer than 10,000 refugees this fiscal year–the lowest number since 1975 and well below the cap–and has merely resettled 6,200 refugees as of the end of last month. If the administration does not ramp up the pace of processing applications in the pipeline, fewer than the previous low of 11,814 refugees set under the Trump administration will enter the United States.

We at GCIR know our country can rise to our highest ideals by providing protection to those who most desperately need it and welcoming them into our communities, and we believe philanthropy has a critical role to play in helping our nation achieve that vision.

More information on Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees

Final $380,000 in Vax Challenge Grants Provided to RI Nonprofits

Nonprofits on the frontlines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis have been awarded another $380,000 in grants in the final phases of the RI Gives Vax Challenge. The funding was triggered as a result of the more than 25,000 Rhode Islanders who got vaccinated since the program was launched in July. More than 81 percent of adult Rhode Islanders are now at least partially vaccinated

The RI Gives Vax Challenge encouraged Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated by awarding grants to nonprofits that supported the general COVID-19 response and recovery every time another 5,000 people were vaccinated. As a result of hitting the 20,000- and 25,000-vaccination milestones, another 38 nonprofits from across Rhode Island received $10,000 grants in the final phases of the initiative.

With the final rounds of grants, the Foundation has awarded $750,000 to 75 organizations in partnership with Gov. McKee, the Rhode Island Commerce Department and the Rhode Island Department of Health.

The RI Gives Vax challenge supports public health initiatives, bolstering the steadfast work of Rhode Island nonprofits and securing stable footing as the state moves into the next phase of pandemic recovery and response.

The other recipients of the Round 4 and Round 5 grants are Amenity Aid, Capital City Community Centers, Central Falls Family Self Sufficiency Foundation, Clothes to Kids RI, Foster Forward, Hope’s Harvest RI, Interfaith Counseling Center, Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale, Lucy’s Hearth, McAuley Ministries, New Beginnings, Operation Stand Down, Progreso Latino, Providence Rescue Mission, Rhode Island for Community & Justice, We Share Hope, Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education, Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket, Bridgemark, CartwheelRI, Centro de Innovacion Mujer Latina,  Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, Good Neighbors, Housing Hotline, Inspiring Minds, Mentor Rhode Island, Open Doors, New Urban Arts, Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust, Rhode Island Center Assisting Those in Need, Silver Lake Community Center,  St. Martin de Porres Senior Center, West End Community Center, West Warwick Senior Center. 

15 More Nonprofits Receive RI Gives Vax Challenge Grants

Fifteen nonprofits on the frontlines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis received $150,000 in grants in the latest round of the RI Gives Vax Challenge. This third round of funding recognized the milestone that more than 15,000 people have now gotten their first dose of the vaccine since the program was launched on July 6. Nearly 80 percent of adult Rhode Islanders are now at least partially vaccinated.

The Vax Challenge encourages Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated by awarding grants to nonprofits that supported the general COVID-19 response and recovery every time another 5,000 people get vaccinated. As a result of reaching the 15,000-vaccination mark, another 15 nonprofits from across Rhode Island received $10,000 grants.

The recipients of the third round of grants are Better Lives Rhode Island, Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center, Conexion Latina Newport, DaVinci Center for Community Progress, Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County, East Bay Food Pantry, Higher Ground International, Housing Network of Rhode Island, Man Up, Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Newport Community School, Oasis International, Project Undercover, Rhode Island Center for Justice, Rhode Island Chapter, American Red Cross.

An additional two rounds of grants totaling $380,000 could be awarded each time Rhode Island administers an additional 5,000 first COVID-19 vaccine doses as reported by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

For the next 5,000 new vaccinations, $180,000 will be awarded to 18 nonprofits; $200,000 will be distributed to 20 nonprofits in the fifth and final round when an additional 5,000 people are vaccinated.

Jointly established by Governor McKee, Commerce Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Foundation, the RI Gives Vax Challenge has now awarded $370,000 in grants to 37 nonprofits through the first three rounds.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island Announces Blue Angel Community Partners

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) announced the 13 community partners for its tenth annual day of service this fall to support the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders.

Since the day’s inception, BCBSRI employees have signed up to provide support for tasks at 118 service day projects, including curating outdoor spaces, packaging footwear for children impacted by homelessness, building affordable and safe homes, creating meal kits for distribution by local food banks and conducting impactful projects virtually.

In addition to volunteer support, project sites will receive a financial contribution of $5,000 from BCBSRI to support their work. Since the inaugural Blue across Rhode Island in 2012, employees have provided more than 30,000 volunteer hours and the company has donated more than $605,000 in funding to nearly 70 agencies around the state.

Recognized nationally as a “Best in Class” volunteer initiative, Blue across Rhode Island has become not only a signature event for BCBSRI employees, but also an invaluable resource for the organizations and those involved – making a lasting impact on the lives of more than 133,000 people throughout the state.

The local organizations selected for Blue across Rhode Island 2021 and the projects BCBSRI employees will work on include 134 Collaborative, Amenity Aid, Boys & Girls Club of Northern Rhode Island, Children’s Friend, Gotta Have Sole Foundation, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Providence, South County Habitat for HumanityHappy Hope Foundation, Hope Alzheimer’s Center, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Partnership for Providence Parks, Recs & Streetscapes, Playworks New England, Riverzedge Arts. 

BankNewport Awards $212,000 in Grants to Local Businesses and Nonprofits

BankNewport has distributed $212,000 in grants focused on food insecurity, health services, education and skills training, and underserved populations, in support of nonprofits that had their operations and outreach impacted by the pandemic. Among the notable awards is a $100,000 grant to the Newport County YMCA for its Building Campaign.

The grant recipients are Comprehensive Community Action Program, East Bay Food Pantry, Newport Hospital Foundation’s Expansion of the Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center, Inspiring Minds, Providence Public Library, RI Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School, San Miguel School, Star Kids Scholarship Program, Newport County YMCA Building Campaign, Big Brothers Big Sisters RI, College Visions, Jonnycake Center for Hope, St. Vincent DePaul Society, St. Joseph, Newport, Visiting Nurse Home & Hospice, VNA of Care New England and Project Goal.

Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island