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Building Better Together: The Role of Foundations in Community Empowerment

In a world where community-driven philanthropy isn’t the norm, foundations can be important partners in catalyzing a more democratic form of giving. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to how these institutions can foster community impact, some examples can help clarify how this can be achieved.

Unlike for-profit entities, the goal of most private non-operative foundations is not to make a profit. Instead, they advance their philanthropic missions by providing other charitable organizations with the financial resources necessary to make a difference in society.

As such, most community foundations Childhood Leukemia Foundation Reviews act as a “fiscal agent” for their community, providing 501 c 3 nonprofits and other charitable initiatives with an opportunity to receive tax-deductible donations without jumping through all the hoops involved in forming their own tax-exempt status. This is an invaluable service that enables new groups to get to work on local community issues without the time and expense associated with creating their own nonprofit organization.

Foundations can also empower community contributors to take an active role in grantmaking decisions. Whether it be through donor advised funds or other forms of granting, community foundations provide opportunities for individuals and families to tailor their donations to specific projects and organizations in the fields they are most passionate about. These personalized giving structures encourage a more democratic, collaborative style of philanthropy and contribute to the sense of ownership that community foundations provide to their stakeholders.

To ensure their investments are having the greatest impact possible, many foundations strategically cultivate partnerships with a broad range of community organizations to better understand the community needs and opportunities. In doing so, community foundations are able to identify and support strategic solutions that will provide lasting benefit.

One example of this is the Nebraska Community Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy program, which engages high school students to participate in hands-on philanthropic activities that empower them as future leaders and stewards of their community. Through this process, students learn about philanthropy and give back to their communities by partnering with local organizations to address critical community issues.

Additionally, through a partnership with the National Community Foundation, Lankelly Chase worked to build and strengthen the capacity of the Nebraska Community Foundation’s Youth in Philanthropy programs, which are focused on engaging young people in their community to identify and pursue local philanthropic opportunities. Through these collaborative efforts, the Community Foundation was able to foster unprecedented community engagement that will increase the effectiveness and impact of its grants. This is a model of collaboration that more grantmakers should look to emulate as they continue their work to expand the number and type of philanthropic strategies that employ democratic principles and tactics. Learn more about how the Nebraska Community Foundation is collaborating with other partners to promote civic engagement and advancing democracy in our community here.

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