5 Lessons I Am Taking with Me from NCFP

Did you know that students who read at their grade level entering fourth grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school.

BUT, only one out of five of our nation’s fourth grade students from low-income families is reading at that grade level.

I opened this post with this statistic because I want to let you know that my time at NCFP is coming to a close. I have accepted a new position at Reading Partners as an AmeriCorps Program Manager. My previous experience with AmeriCorps was an extremely influential time in my personal and professional life and I look forward to my new role in the organization. However as I leave NCFP, there are some key things I want to share that I have learned from my time here.

1. Family foundations give billions annually.

31.68 billion in 2017 to be exact. This is both extremely generous and a huge responsibility. With this generosity families have the opportunity to create systemic changes and help bridge community divides. We need this now more than ever!

2. Perpetuity isn’t the only option for foundations.

More families are choosing to spend out all of their resources because they see immediacy in the needs they want to address. One of those foundations, the Quixote Foundation, has shared their lessons with the field at large including how limiting the life of their foundation set them free but was also scary. They continue to openly share their lessons on https://freefairhealthy.org/ where anyone can go and learn about their journey.

3. Family funders are creative in how they give their resources and in what they support.

The Lampert Byrd Foundation’s program Unorthodox Philanthropy gives cash transfers through Give Directly to those living in extreme poverty.

The Surdna Foundation’s explicit commitment to social justice is inspiring and a great way to make their funding priorities transparent.

Einhorn Charitable Trust has set the lofty goal of helping people get along better, and they are using a rigorous theory of change, in partnership with their grantees, to accomplish this.

The Morning Star Foundation believes you make an impact by what you give but you also make an impact by how you invest. Their investment portfolio is managed with an ESG screen and is a signatory on the Divest/Invest Movement.

4. Family foundations have an opportunity and an advantage over other types of giving vehicles because they can be more nimble and “risky” with their giving.

I have had the privilege of seeing multiple families do this in a multitude of ways, but I want to cite two specific examples that have stood out to me:

Planet Heritage Foundation (PHF). I interviewed one of the founders, Cindy Mercer, when I was writing a post about donor collaboratives. PHF is a relatively small foundation that joined a donor collaborative funding ocean preservation. They wanted to maximize the impact of their giving but didn’t know how to start when other funders were giving much larger amounts. PHF was able to fund an initial field scan that explored all of the ways to preserve the world’s oceans and eventually set the funding priorities for the entire Oceans 5 collaborative. In fact, because PHF was small, NOT in spite of, they could fund the field scan. The larger foundations were not able to mobilize their grant money quickly to address this need. The money invested in the relatively small field scan has been leveraged into millions and millions of dollars to protect the oceans.

The second example comes from a much larger foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. When they activate multiple stakeholders, often with competing views, around different social issues they set aside money for a “break bread” budget. This money is used to bring people together and can go towards food, facilitators, or even site visits to explore issues together.

5. We are at a crossroads as a country, and family funders can play an important part in bridging divides.

Now, more than ever, family giving needs to be united, strategic, and open to taking risks. Our country seems to be more divided than ever, but there is hope that we can work together to create a better and more just world. Family funders can help unite communities and protect marginalized groups. Here are examples of a few foundations leading the way:

In my time at NCFP I have become more convicted about the importance of investing charitable resources wisely. As I move on to Reading Partners I look forward to working on maximizing philanthropic investments and sharing solutions when evidence and data show programs are successful. Please reach out if you would like to stay connected!