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Strategic giving

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By Todd Cohen

Expected to run smart shops, charities need smart support.

But funders prefer to fund programs, not operations, forcing charities to short-change their critical operating needs.

By tailoring funding requests to suit funders’ fetish for programs, charities hurt their ability to deliver programs effectively.

Funders need to listen to what they are preventing charities from saying.

In North Carolina, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is working to match its grants to charities’ actual needs.

In responding to individual funding requests from groups fighting domestic-violence, the foundation recognized they shared common operating challenges.

So, instead of simply reacting to individual requests, it decided to support a series of initiatives to take on underlying needs those groups faced.

The foundation has hired two consultants to help five domestic-violence groups strengthen their fundraising operations and strategies, and a third consultant to identify government funding streams to support their work.

It also is studying technology needed to track the cost of domestic-violence and generate data to show funders its impact.

All three initiatives could lead to future grants by the foundation to strengthen the operations of more domestic-violence groups.

By paying more attention to their actual needs, funders can help charities be more effective.


Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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