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Smartlink.org Creates Blueprint For Effective Philanthropy In Tough Economic Times
Strategies for Community Giving Address Needs of Boomers, Family Foundations, others
Washington, DC, May 6, 2008–– At a time when many in the community are feeling the effects of a possible recession, Smartlink.org (www.smartlink.org) – a nonprofit online resource of Community Giving Resource (CGR) that helps individual donors and small foundations explore issues and give strategically within communities – released guidelines for leveraging philanthropy to build stronger communities. Smartlink.org’s guidelines address the growing need for reliable information for donors, driven by a sharp increase in family philanthropy, the inter-generational transfer of wealth, and the growing interest of maturing Baby Boomers to give back.
“Whether donors want to leave a legacy, give back to their own communities or simply provide for those in need, a growing number of individual donors and small foundations want to be sure that they are investing in projects that have a major impact in low-income communities,” said Elizabeth Myrick, project director, CGR/Smartlink.org. “Unfortunately, while they want to take an active role in their philanthropy, they often struggle to locate the tools and information to help them accomplish their objectives, and can feel overwhelmed by the complexity and intensity of community need. Through these guidelines and other resources, Smartlink.org is providing ideas for donors – helping them develop a strategic giving plan and determine how and where their donations will make the most difference.”
In addition to the financial difficulties caused by the current economic situation, cutbacks in private and government funding for anti-poverty programs have contributed to rising poverty levels, with local programs often hardest hit. CGR takes a proactive approach to reversing this trend by educating small foundations and individual donors about ways to make a positive difference. According to the 2007-2008 Foundation Operations and Management Survey Summary, estimated assets for members of the Association of Small Foundations was $67.6 billion, and these organizations awarded 166,685 grants totaling $3.07 billion in 2006. Almost two-thirds of the grant dollars benefited local communities.
There are several key steps to developing an effective giving plan, according to Smartlink.org, including:
- Articulate your passion for giving – Why is giving important to you? Consider the issues significant to you and your family. Determine your values; what, how and to whom you want to give; and the impact you hope to make. This is a critical first step in assessing which giving strategy is right for you.
- Prepare a mission statement – Articulate the core purpose of your giving through a mission statement that contains your values, interest areas and what you can offer.
- Become informed about a community – Learn as much as you can about the strengths and challenges of the community where you want to make a difference. Conduct research, meet with community leaders, and conduct site visits with community organizations. By learning about a community, you can begin thinking about how you can make the most impact.
- Develop a giving plan – Your giving plan will need to answer the following questions: Where (specific geographic area or communities)? For whom (the specific population that your giving will target)? For what (particular issue, change or action, e.g. housing, education)? How long (length of time you will initiate, evaluate and sustain your giving)? How much (the staff and financial resources you will commit)? With whom (the groups your giving program will support and work with to achieve results)?
- Determine ground rules – Establish giving ground rules and practices that match your passions with the unique needs and strengths of the community where you want to have an impact.
- Measure results – Assess the results of your giving and evaluate the project by asking such questions as: Was the program implemented as intended? What can be learned from what went well and what did not? Is the strategy still relevant and viable? How can the program be improved? Did the program reach the target population? Did the program achieve its intended results?
In addition to providing guidelines and resources, Smartlink.org urges donors to consider getting involved in other ways by volunteering, joining a board and helping to raise awareness of an organization’s mission and impact.
According to Myrick, “There is nothing like getting personally involved with a community group to help you really learn about an issue and increase your sense of satisfaction and impact.”
About Community Giving Resource
Community Giving Resource (CGR) is a joint nonprofit project of The Aspen Institute and the Neighborhood Funders Group. CGR’s mission is to attract, engage, and sustain philanthropic investment in low-income communities. CGR services help donors explore and implement successful funding strategies that create change in communities. At the heart of the Community Giving Resource project is a free, independent and informative donor website, www.smartlink.org, with its in-depth insight on community-based topics and successful giving strategies.
The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership initiatives in Africa, Central America, and India.
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