freddedrickHow Philanthropy Can Help Put People Back to Work and Advance in Careers

By: Fred Dedrick In: 2010 Annual Conference

21 Apr 2010

The economy is showing signs of recovery but for millions of Americans unemployment and/or low wage, dead end jobs are still a reality. Companies are apprehensive about hiring, which is keeping the unemployment rate near 10 percent — and much, much higher in many communities. Yet, one thing is certain, smart investments in human capital make companies more competitive and give hope to struggling families. We have seen this in many regions across the U. S., but we need to do much more.

Philanthropy can take the lead in crafting a nationwide response. The National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS) is a partnership involving more than 200 national and local funders. Operating in 22 regions, the National Fund helps local communities organize resources and develop a customized approach that responds to the local economy and meets the needs of local employers. However, each regional collaboration knows the critical strategies that will generate success: intensive collaboration with employers in particular sectors and a keen focus on helping jobseekers and employees develop skills and build careers.

Quite a number of NFWS leaders are coming to the Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference in Denver April 25-27 for two important reasons: we are being presented the Distinguished Grantmaking Award for Collaboration, and we believe philanthropy must be a leader in the effort to put Americans back to work. This conference is an important opportunity to encourage others to join us. Look for us, we’re ready to answer your questions.

Fred Dedrick is the Executive Director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions

2 Responses to How Philanthropy Can Help Put People Back to Work and Advance in Careers


April 25th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Dear Fred,

What if this isn’t a nonprofit problem, but a government problem?

How do you propose to solve the unemployment issue? What does the National Fund for Workforce Solutions think it can solve by putting more pressure on nonprofits to do this?

What do you say, help american workers defeat layoffs by unionizing, creating a strong union base again?

And how about this, we institute merit-based pay for teachers and nonprofit workers?

And what about this, we invest in entrepreneurship programs in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges?

I won’t be at the conference, because as a person in the nonprofit world, not the foundation world, I am not invited. Why not step outside the ivory tower and invite program staff to weigh in on your ideas?


Fred Dedrick

April 29th, 2010 at 10:07 am


I agree that unemployment is not an issue to be solved by making non-profit organizations, like the ones you work with, shoulder the burden of fixing it. There is definitely a larger and smarter role for government to play in this equation, something I learned firsthand as Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development in Pennsylvania. In the coming years, the work we’re doing at the National Fund will help give shape to that role.

But just as it’s not a solely non-profit issue, it’s not solely a government issue either. The key is shared responsibility and shared outcomes. Challenges like unemployment are easier to address when costs and inputs are shared by all stakeholders. At the National Fund, we work with hundreds of employers, workers, unions, foundations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions all around the country. Together, we develop solutions to not only unemployment, but also the lack of career paths and opportunity for low-income workers.

This approach makes sure that we’re being responsive to actual conditions in the field and not just the circumstances discussed in the “ivory tower,” as you put it. However, inviting program staff to weigh in on our ideas and approach is exactly the purpose of this blog and another way of measuring what we’re doing. Thank you for your suggestions and feedback.


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