By Charlena Wynn
Fundraising and donor contributions can play a large role in the livelihood and success of an organization. Seeking funds to pay staff, organizing programming and events, and grant writing are just a few of the many jobs that executive directors must take on in their role. But what role does the philanthropist play in the nonprofit sector?
Some might suggest philanthropists’ only role is to provide funding for nonprofits, but Amy and Brian France, philanthropists and founders of the Luke and Meadow Foundation, want to change that narrative. Sharing and giving back is very meaningful and real to the Frances. “If you can, you should,” Amy says, as philanthropy is critical to creating a better world.
To allow for more personal connections, their family-oriented Foundation, named after their two children, is more personal than corporate to ensure they can work side by side with nonprofits. Understanding the needs of a charity is critical to the Foundation’s success, and working with executive directors is crucial to seeing where and how the dollars are spent as well as addressing concerns about awareness and research. According to Amy, “We are not in the business of simply writing checks. We want to meet with the people who are in charge. We need to see with our own eyes who the recipients of the gifts are.” Philanthropists should not sit on the sidelines, but work with organizations to support their goals and mission. When a philanthropist understands the needs of an organization, Amy says, they may be able to offer additional ideas for networking with individual donors. The needs of charities vary from group to group, such as temporary support for relief after a natural disaster or prolonging research to find a cure for a disease, but most have a definite need for funding for research, goods, and services.
Additionally, Amy feels that public awareness is essential to nonprofits. Through public awareness, nonprofits would be able to do more and reach the communities they serve. Public awareness not only could bring about additional funding and sponsorship, but also could attract volunteers to help with the day to day production of nonprofit work. Philanthropists can use their platform to help create awareness for groups that may be underfunded or poorly staffed. Amy says, “A philanthropist can utilize their own social networks to draw additional attention to worthwhile causes.” Due to the absence of public awareness, many causes go unnoticed which in turn results in the lack of resources. Once a philanthropist understands the mission, goals, and needs of an organization, they can offer money as well as a platform to reach others.
Much like each organization’s level of need differs, philanthropists should decide for themselves the level of commitment that “feels right.” Mrs. France urges philanthropists to be realistic about their level of commitment to an organization to ensure that those in need are truly being served. Because philanthropy is personal and individualized according to France, each philanthropist must find what fits their resources and energy best. For Amy and her husband, working with executive directors is imperative understanding how they can help organizations. Understanding the vision for the organization and the approaches used, allows for the Frances to become well versed with the organizations that they support. Due to the small size of their family foundation, they are able to devote more time to a select group of organizations that they feel are most worthy.
For the Frances, “Philanthropy is important because it’s how we improve and advance society. It’s about being part of something bigger than your own self.” Looking beyond oneself and helping others can positively impact the world. Philanthropists should aim to work with executive directors of nonprofits to understand their goals, needs, and vision to ensure their work is impactful. “When we share, we become something more important than ourselves,” says Amy. While funds are important and essential to the success of nonprofits, philanthropists who engage with the causes they support are likely to offer more than simply writing a check but a platform for awareness as well as a better understanding of the needs of nonprofits and those they serve.
Amy and Brian France, founders of the Luke and Meadow Foundation, are committed supporters of causes they believe in.
Charlena Wynn is currently pursuing her Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies at NC State University with a concentration in examining the construction of Blackness in contemporary United States museums.