Planting Seeds for Organizational Financial Health and Independence - Exponent Philanthropy
A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Planting Seeds for Organizational Financial Health and Independence

Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

Over the past few years throughout the social sector, we’ve witnessed an unprecedented number of what many have termed, transformational gifts. These contributions span widely. Depending on the size of the recipient organization, they range from tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars across a broad range of institutions and issues. However, their common thread is the outstanding impact the gift will have on the trajectory and pace of the organization and its work.

A fantastic couple started a Facebook fundraiser for us and it went viral and brought in over $20 million in five days. It was a double-edged sword; a large learning curve that required an element of recruitment across the country, as in: ‘How do we bring in some of the minds – those who have focused their careers on the not-for-profit community, organizational growth, and sustainability – to be sure the funds are responsibly applied?’ And we look at our work with Bernstein, in particular, as a really great example of that.”  – Faisal Al-Juburi VP, Development, RAICES

At the same time, an increasing number of funders are embracing concepts of trust-based and catalytic philanthropy. To illustrate, you can see the popularity of these trends in the number of sessions dedicated to them at Exponent Philanthropy’s 2022 Annual Conference.

Building Capacity and Strengthening Leadership

Tenets of trust-based and catalytic philanthropy include trusting nonprofits to know how best to deploy grant money, as well as offering support beyond the check. These can help build the capacity and strength of leaders and organizations over time.

In my role providing investment management and related services specifically for developing organizations and foundations, a few resulting situations have come to light:

  • Organizations that haven’t historically had access to philanthropic dollars are now receiving significant funds. This really does pose opportunities to begin to bridge systemic inequities between the haves and have nots of the nonprofit sector.
  • Countless organizations receiving such historic flows don’t yet have frameworks in place for effective fiduciary stewardship of assets. This goes for both current and long-term financial sustainability.
  • Often, there are gaps in subject matter expertise available to such organizations in determining how to build and implement on fiduciary frameworks that allow for a long term financial and investment strategy. The key question my team and I tend to address is, “how exactly do we do this?”

As funders, we have opportunities to offer support beyond the check for developing organizations in building long-term financial health and independence. How can we tap into our own networks and resources to help bridge this gap? Are there examples of other funders successfully partnering with grantee organizations in this way? What resources are out there? And what priority steps might we encourage organizations to take to both support fiduciary effectiveness and minimize prescriptiveness?

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About the Author

Clare Golla, CFP®​ is National Managing Director, Foundation & Institutional Advisory at Bernstein Private Wealth Management.

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