The great American writer Vernor Vinge once said, “Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.” What Vernor is saying is that even the smallest things can be hugely impactful. There are so many colloquialisms for this truth in the English lexicon: ripple, domino, snowball, chain reaction, the parable of the mustard seed, etc. As a grantmaker, no matter how small your assets are, you wield the power to make a change. How effective that change is depends on your strategy.
This Content Collection offers resources and case studies on how to transform your small gift into big impact. We found inspiration for this collection in our sponsor and Leadership Circle member, The Leighty Foundation. Started in 1985 by Ike Leighty and his children, The Leighty Foundation has mastered the art of leverage.
One recent $5,000 Leighty Foundation grant exemplifies this fact: Operation Rainbow is a small nonprofit outfit that provides life-changing orthopedic surgeries to impoverished children. While $5,000 may not seem like a lot of money, especially when considering the cost of a minor orthopedic surgery in this country, Operation Rainbow is able to leverage those funds to bring volunteer medical professionals to developing countries and provide 16x the value of the gift in services to impoverished children. Because of this partnership, The Leighty Foundation’s gift will provide 10 surgeries to children in need!
Peruse these resources to learn more about how to leverage your foundation’s grants for major impact. Have your own awesome impact story? NCFP wants to hear it! Share it with us here.
December 14, 2017
Leveraging Small Grants for Big Impact
Domino effect. Snowballing. Chain reaction. Ripple effect. Reverberation. There are plenty of ways to describe this simple truth: small actions can have big results. This webinar will feature the stories of foundations that have created out-sized impact with their relatively small grants. Whether it’s health care, education, or …
August 9, 2012
Advocacy and Family Philanthropy: Leveraging Limited Dollars for Impact
New research from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy shows that family foundations are a leading source of support for nonprofits active in policy advocacy and civic engagement. Why do family foundations choose to invest in these strategies to advance their mission? What kinds of impacts are they achieving, and …
June 12, 2008
Family foundations and advocacy: Making your grant dollars go further
Contrary to popular belief, family foundations may fund grantees to advocate-and can even advocate themselves. Abby Levine reviews the various activities that constitute advocacy and describes why foundation support for advocacy is so important. She explains the legal rules governing such activity, outlining the types of activities family foundations may …
Articles related to leveraging small grants for a big impact
Small Can Be Effective
Foundations do not need a lot of money to be effective. If, indeed, they were to exploit only a fraction of the strategies available to them, their individual and collective impact on American life would be vastly and beneficially expanded.
Can a Small Organization Have a Big Impact?
I get asked this question often. How can a small foundation with few staff really catalyze large scale social change? In fact, how can a foundation of any size play this role? At The Tow Foundation, we have attempted to play a significant role in juvenile justice reform, an issue …
Finding and Fighting the Causes of Homelessness: The Melville Charitable Trust
In 1990, a family trust in Connecticut decided to pursue an audacious goal: to end homelessness in America. The board thoroughly studied the issue, and eventually committed themselves to an equally bold strategy – creating a national movement. The Melville Charitable Trust’s considerable impact since then was recognized recently when its …
New Strategies for Leveraging Foundation Assets
In recent years, a small but ever-growing number of foundation boards and advisors have been exploring new ways to deploy and leverage foundation assets for greater and more sustainable impact.....
Leveraging All of Your Assets
“Foundations do not need a lot of money to be effective,” Ylvisaker declared. “If, indeed, they were to exploit only a fraction of the strategies available to them, their individual and collective impact on American life would be vastly and beneficially expanded.”