Bucking the Status Quo in Philanthropy



By Andrea Price @aprice_1

Bucking status quo in philanthropy: Emmett Carson doesn’t put limitations on his partners or tools. <Check out this 1-minute video by Dr. Emmett Carson

Dr. Emmett Carson is one of the greatest philanthropic leaders of the 21st Century. His vision and insight has transformed the Silicon Valley Community Foundation into one of the top foundations in the world. In the video above, Dr. Carson challenged the status quo of foundations funding nonprofit (501c3) organizations only. If a for-profit, nonprofit, governmental organization or a group of citizens are working to address pressing needs both globally and domestically, why not diversify funding models and open up opportunities to multiple sectors or even civic leaders who aren’t connected to a business entity. As Dr. Carson said, the community is the client and strong communities make strong democracies.

Bucking the status quo in rural America

As a practitioner of community-based philanthropy and a daughter of rural America, I’ve seen the traditionally marginalized in rural areas come up with creative solutions to the communities most pressing needs. For example, throughout my time living and working in rural Arkansas, I’ve heard great ideas and plans for community improvement from single parents, the local candy lady who lives in public housing, and even the church mother who sits in the “Amen” corner at church, but their plans often lack the strong financial and structural backing which is required for sustainable change.

Foundations, particularly community foundations, have to begin to reach beyond the status quo and do a greater job engaging citizens in rural areas, listening to their ideas and plans for better futures, and develop funding models that support these plans. This is necessary because many rural areas have very few nonprofits and the ones that do exist have very little power or will to create systemic change. However, what does exists in these areas are local governments and businesses that are intimately connected to the citizens and to the needs of communities. The mass migration from rural areas has diminished tax bases and thus the available funds to address community concerns are diminished. Additionally, many citizens in rural communities have limited access to discretionary capital to address community needs. Foundations, particularly community foundations, should consider these few factors as they explore ways to diversify funding models. Bucking the status quo and developing alternative funding models that aren’t limited to nonprofits, strengthens our communities and ultimately our democracy.

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