Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Mystery of Foundations


There may be myths about the work of foundations and who they serve to benefit, and the PNLC’s April Theory to Practice (T2P) event sought to dig deeper into these questions by talking with practitioners in this field. Kim Borton from the InFaith Community Foundation and Anita Patel from the Bush Foundation brought extensive knowledge from within the foundation world, discussing both the specific work of their own foundations and the broader functions of foundations as a whole. The main focus of the conversation was to address the myths people had about foundations and explain what really happens inside of foundations. To start off they discussed their own foundations, their missions, how they vary from one another, and in the broader sense how every foundation varies from one another.

Kim works at InFaith Community Foundation and she views her role at the foundation to help direct people in their own giving. The community foundation both manages the donors’ gift to the foundation, and their donations to organizations of their choice. On the other hand, Anita works at the Bush Foundation, which is a private independent foundation, where they strive to be involved with the community and help the community with what they need through grant making in key program areas. Comparing just two foundations demonstrates the broad variation in both mission and daily work.

To further explore this variation, Anita said that the Bush Foundation does leadership development, promotes innovation projects, and develops projects to support native governments. Their theory of change states that investing in individuals with big project ideas will in turn help organizations, and create a vibrant ecosystem within the community. Kim explained how the InFaith Community Foundation started to assist people in their charitable endeavors, which will in turn help both donors as well as those in need.

The T2P audience was pleased to learn more about the two foundations specific work, and also develop a broader understanding of the variation between foundations. Kim and Anita both were able to talk a great deal about the way their foundations help out others and that they are not just private/closed off organizations who benefit only those who have connections to the donors. While foundations can seem like impenetrable institutions, these two foundations are engaged in listening to their communities, seeking out innovative ideas and projects that will address needs. Overall, this discussion brought people better insight in the foundation world.

By: Michele Chayka
Michele Chayka works as the principal office and administrative assistant at the Public Nonprofit Leadership Center. Michele graduated from the University of MN with a bachelors in Political Science this past December. Personally she is quite interested in the nonprofit sector and discovering how foundations help both public and nonprofits.

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