Over the past 90 years, donors have established endowments at our foundation and directed us to use the spending from these endowments to address the changing needs of our community over time. This significant responsibility assumes that we will do everything in our power to leverage these most precious flexible dollars for maximum potential. Community impact is the ultimate measure of honoring the intent of these visionary donors. Their powerful commitment to their community inspires and attracts current donor advisers to this same pursuit.
Given the complexity of the issues before us, significant impact demands collaborative efforts. No single player has the money, the know-how, or the power to drive the necessary systemic change that moves the needle with scope and scale. In a difficult economy it becomes even more important to leverage our donors’ generosity by coming together with other leaders around a common community agenda.
Competitive grantmaking doesn’t make a big enough dent given the challenges we face. Partnering with local providers, private foundations, and government can help focus attention on an issue, incentivize deeper coordination between stakeholders, and provide the seed money that demonstrates a local commitment to the issue. Thus, the community is better positioned to attract funding from outside the region.
Community foundations are uniquely positioned to identify issues that are “ripe” for attention, convene stakeholders across the sectors, facilitate a shared vision of success, and develop a coordinated plan for achieving that vision. This community leadership process necessarily increases the level of coordination and maximizes existing resources to make the implementation of the plan possible. The foundation provides the “glue and grease” money to keep the effort alive. Additionally, community foundations are the natural brokers to connect local efforts to funders from outside the region—both private and public—who are actively seeking collaborative solutions.
Our experience to date at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has resulted in a 1:5 leverage ratio. So for every dollar that our donors left to our care with a mandate of addressing the changing needs of the community over time, we have brought $5 more to the community table in support of coordinated agendas for change.
Community change is happening at a new scale. The fabric of community is becoming more tightly woven. Our donors understand this leverage and are choosing to provide support to address the changing needs of communities over time—both during and after their lifetimes.
Does your community need this type of leadership? Are you ready to do your part?
Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker is president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo