How can family foundations and community foundations work most effectively together?

NCFP’s webinar, Community Leadership: Families and Community Foundations Working Together, included a lengthy Q and A session with panelists on a variety of topics. In this month’s edition of “Ask the Center,” we’re pleased to share some of the highlights of their answers. For more information on this topic, read our feature blog post on the three community foundations highlighted on the webinar.

Are there good examples of family foundations working closely with the donor community, brought to the table via the community foundation, to strengthen philanthropic initiatives broadly?

Audrey Jacobs, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta: Our Grants to Green Initiative is an excellent example. It was started and is sustained by support from the Kendeda Fund. Grants to Green provides environmentally focused knowledge and funding to strengthen nonprofits. Through this initiative, metro Atlanta nonprofits have the opportunity to renovate or build healthier work places that are energy and water efficient and environmentally efficient.

Keith Swayne, Keith and Judith Swayne Family Foundation and Shelley Hoss, Orange County Community Foundation:  We can offer a few examples that we’ve been involved with in Orange County. For example, supporting the AVID program and AVID scholarships has been an important project to improve educational outcomes. While it isn’t a formal initiative, it is in alignment with an important community need. Several of our donors support this project through their donor advised funds. We also introduced some local family and private foundations and several of them became supporters of the program as well.

One initiative we are active in promoting is providing program related investments (PRIs, loan funds) to nonprofits. We recently provided a line of credit to a local nonprofit to build a new shelter. The funds for the line of credit were contributed by private family foundations and OCCF donors.

A few other examples we can provide include:

  • We’ve worked with various local donors on a Veterans Initiative to support the needs of veterans in Orange County. Funding sources for this initiative have included private foundations, a local family foundation and CF donors.
  • Another initiative we have spearheaded is our Communities Advancing the Arts Initiative. Major funding for this initiative came from private and family foundations.
  • In addition, there have been several convenings of Orange County funders sponsored jointly by the Community Foundation and a private family foundation for the purpose of exposing the philanthropic community to issues and needs in the county.

How can we partner with the community foundations in our state to know community goals and make more effective grants in those areas?

Audrey Jacobs: Simply reach out to the community foundations within your state. We have several initiatives in which family foundations might connect with us—our Neighborhood Fund, AIDS Fund, Grants to Green, Strategic Restructuring, and Arts Fund.

Convened by The Community Foundation, the Atlanta Place-Based Funders is a learning and action group of funders committed to investing in specific communities in Atlanta. The intent is to capture and leverage the learnings and investments made to improve each of the communities and the city as a whole. 
Together, the group has explored issues related to public housing for residents, early childhood education, community-based healthcare and prisoner re-entry. Several partnerships have been formed, one of which resulted in a state grant to two funders to keep youth active during the summer.

Participants to date include The Community Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the CF Foundation, the Zeist Foundation, and the Enterprise Foundation.

What have been some of the topics/issues discussed during the Family Foundation Alliance’s quarterly meetings at the Orange County Community Foundation? How do you decide on what programming to offer?

Keith Swayne and Shelley Hoss: Our FFA meetings have covered a variety of topics and have followed various program formats. A core group of members who were involved with the formation of the group helped determine the topics and formats for the first few meetings. Shortly after the group formed, members were surveyed and asked to share topics they were interested. We just recently formed a steering committee of group members to help guide future meeting topics and structure. However, we continue to ask members for their suggestions and many of them have provided some great insight!

A few past meeting topics include:

  • Your Philanthropic Vision & Focus: Richard Atlas, from The Atlas Family Foundation, shared his philanthropic journey with the group. He also shared some valuable tips and insight regarding how families can determine and achieve their philanthropic goals.
  • Storytelling: One of our first meetings and a very simple concept that involved going around the room so everyone could briefly share the story of their foundation. A great way to get to know each other!
  • The Joys & Challenges of Running a Nonprofit: This meeting featured a panel of three local nonprofit executive directors and offered a look at philanthropy through the eyes of a nonprofit. The panelists discussed a “typical” day in the life of an ED and FFA members asked various questions of the panelists.
  • Engaging Your Family in Philanthropy: This event featured a presentation by Valerie Jacobs of the Jacobs Family Foundation followed by smaller roundtable discussions.
  • Bridging the Generational Divide in Family Philanthropy: a presentation by Lisa Parker of the Lawrence Welk Family Foundation.
  • Continuing the Conversation on Generational Philanthropy: a group discussion moderated by Judy Belk of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors which examined several common questions that come up in family foundations related to family dynamics and involvement.

Can you clarify the relationship between the Mardag Foundation, Saint Paul Foundation, and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners?

Tim Ober, Mardag Foundation and Ann Mulholland, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners: The Saint Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation have shared staffing and governance for many years.

Additionally, The Saint Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation each have formal relationships with many funds and community foundations throughout the state, each with its own respective mission and focus, but not a separate legal entity from The Saint Paul Foundation or the Minnesota Community Foundation.

In an effort to better describe this multi-faceted coalition of foundations and philanthropic ventures, The Saint Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation created the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners brand to better reflect the breadth and depth of the work being done by all these different organizations both independently and in concert with each other. Minnesota Philanthropy Partners is just a brand, it is not a legal entity. There are four anchor foundations affiliated with Minnesota Philanthropy Parnters, The Saint Paul Foundation (the state’s largest community foundation), the Minnesota Community Foundation, the F. R. Bigelow Foundation (a private foundation) and the Mardag Foundation (a family foundation).

About forty years ago, the Mardag Foundation entered into a formal relationship with The Saint Paul Foundation. The Mardag Foundation is a stand-alone, private family foundation. Mardag has its own board of directors, unique grantmaking guidelines and focus and priority areas and its own separate 501(c)3 organization. Mardag has simply entered into an agreement with The Saint Paul Foundation to provide all operational support. Technically, the Mardag Foundation has no employees. The Saint Paul Foundation provides support to do the work of Mardag and bills Mardag for those services. The Saint Paul Foundation provides this service to Mardag and to other family/private foundations, most notably the F. R. Bigelow Foundation.

Is there a legal structure for Minnesota Philanthropy Partners or is that a brand of St. Paul Foundation?

Ann Mulholland: Minnesota Philanthropy Partners is a brand. It is our way to describe our network of more than 1700 foundations and funds that share resources and expertise. There are four anchor foundations that are part of our network, two of them are community foundations – The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation. And two are private/family foundations – The Mardag Foundation and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation.

If a family foundation connects itself with a community foundation are there greater opportunities or success in investing and growing assets, rather than just hiring money managers on its own?

Tim Ober: Yes and no. It really isn’t about hiring money or investment managers; it’s about finding better managers and properly diversifying the portfolio. Mardag for many years maintained our own investment committee and kept our assets separate from The Saint Paul Foundation and their Community Investment Group (CIG). Mardag did make use of the finance people within The Saint Paul Foundation to work with our Investment Committee, but hired our own investment managers. Due to the relationship with The Saint Paul Foundation, Mardag was able to tap into their knowledge and experience and also to make use of their leverage to get access to investment advice we wouldn’t have seen on our own.

What is the best approach for community foundations seeking to support smaller family foundations that might be better served by a fund at a CF rather than their current situation?

Keith Swayne and Shelley Hoss: Community foundations should approach these conversations as a knowledgeable and trustworthy philanthropic resource, being respectful of the donor’s needs and choices. Openly discuss and examine the various options available to the donor in a way that allows them to choose the option that is the best fit for them. This includes a discussion of how the CF can be used in tandem with their family foundation, instead of only presenting the “either/or” options. They may ultimately decide to utilize the CF only, but that should come from positive experience over time. Regardless of whether or not they choose to utilize the CF, this refreshing approach to philanthropy will gain you supporters in your community and only elevate the CF’s position as a local leader in philanthropy.

In Orange County, members of the Family Foundation Alliance, which includes several smaller foundations, are learning about the services of the Community Foundation in an informal way. In some instances these smaller entities are entertaining the idea of a donor advised fund rather than their own foundation. This is occurring not by a “selling effort” on the part of the Community Foundation, but rather general learning that is taking place within the Family Foundation forum.