Supporting Low-Income Neighborhood Organizations: A Guide for Community Foundations – A New Introduction
By Steven E. Mayer, Ph.D
Projects that work well and produce good outcomes are more likely to capture the eye of funders. Good outcomes in this project included: tangible benefits produced for the neighborhood and increased organizational capacity to do more.
Can community foundations learn, if given the opportunity, to be effective vehicles for channeling support to low-income neighborhood organizations while increasing their own resources, grantmaking skills, and leadership role in the community? That was the question posed by the C.S. Mott Foundation with its groundbreaking project.
Long story short, the answer is unequivocally “Yes.” This Guide, produced after four years of this experimental program, became a blueprint for other similar projects around the country using community foundations as intermediaries to reach smaller, more activist organizations.
Guidance for Philanthropic Effectiveness
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation was among the first large national private foundations to build successful programs around local community interests, especially among low-income communities. And it was also among the first to recognize the growing force of community foundations. It broke internal silos and merged those two interests to create this very successful program, Community Foundations and Low-Income Neighborhoods, launching in 1984. The program created many excellent examples of strategic grantmaking, as documented in this publication. This set the stage for many other similarly constructed initiatives around the country.
Guidance for Community Development
Small self-help groups often can make significant improvements in the quality of neighborhood life, a reality already known in some corners of philanthropy when this program was created (1984). Civic organizations are attractive options for local donors and local partners, especially those who want the legitimacy of connection to low-income neighborhoods, or who want to invest in these neighborhoods’ growth. Big lessons were learned about the kinds of projects that are likely to work well: projects with popular support, projects that are feasible and manageable, and projects that encourage the organization to expand its skills and resources.
Guidance for Nonprofit Management
Projects that work well and produce good outcomes are more likely to capture the eye of funders. Good outcomes in this project included: tangible benefits produced for the neighborhood and increased organizational capacity to do more. Combining these two outcomes intentionally became the core of what I call The Mittenthal Principle, named after the President of the Arizona Community Foundations, one of the pioneer participants.
Guidance for Program Evaluation
Supporting Low-Income Neighborhood Organizations: A Guide for Community Foundations (affectionately known as “SLINO” by its users) shows the power of evaluation to bring an experimental effort to scale. It may in fact be the best-known case in the field of philanthropy, certainly among community foundations, setting the stage for a second round of grantmaking, many other initiatives involving community foundations, and a free-standing organization of alums and other interested entities, Grassroots Grantmakers, which actively continues the legacy of this 30-year old program to this day. One of its publications presents the history, achievements, and legacy of this fusion of neighborhood interests with community foundation capabilities. Another presents a Short Course on Grassroots Grantmaking.
The eight community foundations participating in the first round of Mott’s grantmaking, on which this Guide is based, are:
- Arizona Community Foundation
- Community Foundation of New Jersey
- Greater Worcester Community Foundation
- Dayton Foundation
- San Diego Community Foundation
- Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Affiliated Trusts
- Foundation for the Carolinas
- Oregon Community Foundation
How to cite this cover article: Mayer, Steven E., Supporting Low–Income Neighborhood Organizations: A Guide for Community Foundations – A New Introduction, Minneapolis: Effective Communities Project. Downloaded from EffectiveCommunities.com [month, date, year]
Our free report, supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, be cited this way: Mayer, Steven E. and Scheie, David M., Supporting Low–Income Neighborhood Organizations: A Guide for Community Foundations. Minneapolis: Rainbow Research, Inc., 1989 and 1993.