How might place-based foundations reimagine their collaborations with nonprofit organizations to extend beyond grantmaking? What are the challenges and opportunities for foundations in using their social and human capital to work alongside nonprofits to support common goals? Can foundations and nonprofits build a mutually beneficial relationship that is not solely based on funding?
These questions have inspired the development of two innovative networks, The Jefferson Community Collaborative and the WestCo Nonprofit Network, which explore ways for foundations to work collaboratively with local nonprofits beyond traditional grantmaking. Mary Phan-Gruber, CEO of the Jefferson Regional Foundation, spearheaded the creation of the Jefferson Community Collaborative, a network of over 90 community-serving organizations working to positively impact the health and vitality of communities south of Pittsburgh. While addressing its current priorities of behavioral health, family and resident engagement, and workforce development, the Collaborative seeks to serve as an incubator for powerful ideas, strengthen the capacity of community-serving organizations and facilitate group action on community aspirations.
For Phil Koch, executive director of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, the WestCo Nonprofit Network is an initiative that plays a similar role by providing education, advocacy and networking for the nonprofit sector in Westmoreland County. Through this professional networking group, nonprofit leaders have the opportunity to make connections, learn from their peers, explore possible partnerships and participate in professional development activities.
Mary and Phil have discovered that a truly collaborative relationship with nonprofits can be more powerful than grantmaking alone for the urban, micropolitan and rural communities they serve. Their work has enhanced the capacity of organizations, helped to identify and address tough issues while effectively leveraging collective power, and created spaces for new collaborations to emerge. By working together, they have achieved greater outcomes for the people in the communities they serve.