"FPA took my husband and me from doing checkbook philanthropy with our new foundation to one that has a mission and far-reaching aspirations. It helped us see how we could have transformational impact in the areas we decided to focus upon, often with relatively small grants. We did not know, for example, that convening was a strategy we could use to begin the change process. They handled the complex and challenging tasks involved in running the foundation, did the 'heavy-lifting' and engaged us directly in the ways most natural and satisfying to us. FPA’s strategic contributions led to the creation of the Bravewell Collaborative, which is a source of immense satisfaction to us. They are extremely smart people, efficient and ethical and, not least, fun to work with. FPA helped me grow as a person and as a philanthropist and helped us build a foundation that is truly making a difference."
After one philanthropist received a devastating diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, she found that her medical care effectively treated the disease but did not begin to address questions that would allow her to regain a sense of control over her life and prevent the cancer’s recurrence. Realizing that much of healing involves the world of heart and mind and spirit, she believed that medicine needed to return the patient to the center of his or her care through an integrative approach that helps the body heal itself and empowers people to make lifestyle choices that would prevent many illnesses. This philanthropist dreamed of changing the entire medical system to make such an integrative approach the norm.
The dream took shape as FPA helped her family foundation bring together medical leaders, philanthropists, experts and foundations around a central topic of changing health care in the United States. A philanthropic collaborative was born. In eight years this collaboration of philanthropists, staffed by FPA, has worked together to develop a national network of integrative medicine clinics, support a national PBS documentary, revise medical school curricula, support leading practitioners, convene a national summit in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine and advocate for prevention as a national policy.
After a summer of heightened violence in a large city, one foundation’s trustees wanted to provide more than a band-aid fix for an ever-growing problem. Through comprehensive research and conversations with community leaders and experts, FPA staff identified the city’s hardest-hit neighborhood and outlined goals to organize residents to stem the tide of violence, revitalize the neighborhood and improve the quality of life. FPA convened grass-roots nonprofit organizations to learn key neighborhood issues, culled true community leaders and determined that in order to make lasting change, the foundation needed to make a lasting commitment. Over the following ten years, the foundation supported the rehabilitation of over 100 homes, identified and supported the participation of over 6,000 residents in community-driven activities to improve the neighborhood’s livability, and crime dropped by 29 percent.
A rural foundation’s grantees were reporting that they were unable to entice recent high-achieving graduates to work at their organizations because they were being lured away by higher-paying jobs outside the community. They foresaw a growing vacuum of future leadership within the community and its nonprofit sector. FPA worked with the foundation to develop a summer internship program that would provide these students the opportunity to share their talents and connect with the community through hands-on work. The energetic interns provided a boost to their host organizations while they learned. A summer intern at a community homeless shelter commented, “This summer was the most amazing summer of my life. It has changed my perspective on the world and I can’t wait to graduate so that I can continue doing this important work.” Sixty percent of the summer internship alumni are working in the non-profit sector to date.
As foundations continue through successive generations and trustees spread out across the world, it can be difficult for trustees to stay connected to the founders’ legacy and to each other. FPA’s solution for one geographically diverse foundation was the creation of a Blue Sky Fund to strengthen the connection between the founders’ mission and the communities in which the second and third generations now live. A portion of each year’s grants is now allocated to organizations in each trustee’s home community, ensuring that the foundation’s mission spreads into the succeeding generations’ new home towns. The Fund deepens the family’s roots and keeps the trustees connected to each other and to the foundation. One trustee shares, “I love to learn about my sister’s community and to support her in funding the organizations and issues that are important to her.”
With dedicated guidance, a strategically placed gift at a strategic time brought about a transformative new program at a major university. One philanthropic family, committed to that university’s schools of business and government, saw an opportunity for a collaboration that would develop much-needed talent in social entrepreneurship, leadership, public service and activism. FPA staff worked closely with foundation trustees and the schools’ administration to identify areas of opportunity and developed an innovative leadership fellowship program. The competitive fellowships are awarded to students concurrently enrolled in the government and business school who are interested in community and organizational transformation and who commit to working in two of three sectors—public, private and nonprofit—over the course of their careers. The fellowship catalyzed development of a fully integrated joint educational program between the two schools. Coursework is now coordinated and faculty shared. Most importantly, new leaders will emerge with the benefit of two esteemed schools’ combined expertise and history.
The foundation’s second-generation trustees lived far from the rural community in which their late parents generated their wealth. Although the trustees wanted to continue to provide meaningful support to that community, their distance made it difficult to address the community’s most pressing issues on their own. The foundation engaged FPA to provide a comprehensive assessment of the community from a fresh perspective and, as a result, the trustees recommitted to major support of the community.
On behalf of the foundation, FPA develops and maintains local relationships through quarterly site visits and ongoing communication with community leaders, stays apprised of community issues and evaluates impact, providing trustees with comprehensive monthly updates, thorough semi-annual grant evaluations, and the opportunity to participate in site visits. This partnership allows the foundation to make highly informed and strategic grants with direct impact, while maintaining the low profile that the family desires.