Giving with Impact:
Transcript of the podcast:
MICHAEL GORDON VOSS: Welcome to the fourth season of Giving with Impact, an original podcast series from Stanford Social Innovation Review developed with the support of Schwab Charitable. I'm your host, Michael Gordon Voss, publisher of SSIR. In this series, we strive to create a collaborative space for leading voices from across the philanthropic ecosystem to engage in both practical and aspirational conversations around relevant topics at the heart of achieving more effective philanthropy.
Traditional approaches to solving various social and environmental problems taken by government, philanthropy, and nonprofits have tended to focus on specific areas like housing, education or health, but experience has shown us that these problems don't exist in a vacuum. A recent article published in SSIR talks about the importance of place-based strategies for addressing challenges faced by communities and outlines several new approaches being pursued to uplift these communities. Some organizations are achieving remarkable change by focusing on transforming place first and foremost, rather than focusing on specific problems or goals in a siloed manner. They pursue holistic place-based systems change. But what does this place-based approach look like in practice? And how can we help leverage resources and relationships to empower community and achieve lasting and transformative change?
To help us better understand this topic, we're joined by leaders from two community foundations. They'll share with us how their organizations are seeking and incorporating the knowledge and expertise of communities in shaping their granting strategies, as well as how they're working with other stakeholders, including their donors, to advance community priorities.
Gina D. Dalma is Executive Vice President, Community Action Policy and Strategy at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the largest community foundation in the US. Gina is responsible for leading SVCF's impact team to ensure that Silicon Valley is a place where all people can lead financially secure, safe, and fulfilling lives. SVCF's California lobbying work is centered around affordable housing, education, immigration, economic security, equity and justice. And with Gina's leadership, SVCF has become a leading voice in Washington, DC, on topics that advance the philanthropic sector.
Also, joining us is Peggy Davis, Vice President of Community Impact for the Chicago Community Trust, a 100-plus-year-old organization that works to address the greatest and most critical needs facing the Chicago region. Peggy is responsible for programmatic leadership and grant-making that reflect the organization's commitment to service, helping to better connect donors with expertise in local knowledge to power more meaningful philanthropy. Peggy joined the trust as an experienced leader and a legal professional with a range of experience across the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
In addition to our two other guests, we're joined today by Chris Boyce, Senior Relationship Manager for the Central Region of the US for Schwab Charitable. In his role, Chris partners with Schwab Financial Consultants and various donor communities. Peggy, Gina, Chris, thank you for joining me as we did discuss place-based giving strategies.
Chris, let me ask you to start us on today's topic.
CHRIS BOYCE: Sure. Thanks, Michael. I think we can all agree that strong communities matter and that philanthropy can serve to strengthen local fibers. I'm looking forward to gaining a better understanding about place-based philanthropy and learning how Peggy and Gina are using a place-based lens through which to work more closely alongside the communities they serve to achieve that transformative change that you mentioned.
MICHAEL: Well, thanks Chris. Yes, I think we all want to hear a little bit more about how Peggy and Gina are doing their work. So let's move on and get them on board in today's topic.
Peggy, Gina, a question for both of you, how would you define place-based giving? Let's start with you Peggy.
PEGGY DAVIS: Thank you, Michael. I'm happy to be here for this conversation. So when I think about place-based giving, one way to think about it is at the macro level, so bringing together resources in a collaborative way to benefit community for us at Chicago Cook County and the collar counties. The definition, by the way, is the essence of the Chicago Community Trust founders, Norman and Albert Harris, who had a conversation back in 1915. They, essentially, asked themselves, can we do more to address the region's challenges by pooling our funds? And that approach has endured. Here we are doing the same thing 107 years later.
More locally, there are particular communities in Chicago, primarily on the south and west sides and primarily Black and Latinx communities that have been overlooked for private investment for decades, and we, ourselves, and others make investments and partner with others across the social impact sector to grow the wealth and build on the vitality that nonetheless exists in these communities and builds the wealth and vitality of the region overall.
MICHAEL: So, Peggy, it's great that you shared that was part of your founder's vision in many ways, that this idea of place-based giving isn't something new the way some of us might think of it. Thank you. Gina, what about you? What's your definition?
GINA DALMA: Well, Michael, thank you so much for the invitation to be here with you and for the delight to be here with my friend, Peggy. So place-based giving, to me, really, is focusing on a local ecosystem where challenges are defined and solutions really stem from place-based partners like nonprofit organizations, public agencies, the corporate sector, all focused on the wellbeing of a specific community. And working within this ecosystem is exactly what a community foundation does. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation supports the Silicon Valley, which we defined as San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
MICHAEL: So with so much other change happening in the world in the past two years, have your approaches to place-based giving changed? Gina, why don't you kick us off?
GINA: Thanks, Michael. The pandemic actually accelerated the path we were already on, to invest in solutions and in solution-makers on the ground. The need to get to the household level and get there fast required that we invest heavily in small grassroots organizations mostly led by people of color that know their neighborhood and know their neighbors. Organizations who could, for example, help undocumented folks, in a very safe way, obtain vaccines and access to state benefits. We had already worked with these organizations in the past through much of our census work, these organizations that had deep roots within their neighborhoods.
But through this work, through the accelerated work in the pandemic, we invested seriously in this network and were really able to leverage these existing relationships for our COVID response. As we continue investing and ensuring folks have the power to design their destiny, these are exactly the organizations that will mobilize and push for solutions that emerge from community. The best solutions come from community for the community. We truly believe that.
MICHAEL: And Peggy, during the rehearsal, you mentioned that the Chicago Community Trust began to change its granting strategy prior to the onset of the pandemic. I know our audience would be interested in hearing more about that.
PEGGY: Yes, we actually launched a strategy a year before the pandemic focusing on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap. Before that, we had nine portfolios of more traditional grant-making that was focused on addressing disparities in, for example, education, health and housing. In 2019, we reviewed our impact across these more traditional portfolios and determined that we could be more effective if we became more goal-focused. Through this analysis, we found out that the economic wealth gap was at the root of all of the disparities that we had previously addressed over time, and that the largest gaps are for Black and Latinx families. Since these same populations were most impacted by the pandemic, we did not have to shift at that point, although we had to adjust to respond to emergency impacts of the pandemic like increased food insecurity and small business instability.
MICHAEL: And I think a lot of organizations that were able to pivot in the way that you mentioned or to kind of build upon some of what they were already doing as a result of the pandemic were able to really step up and have an even greater impact during such a big time of crisis over the past two years.
PEGGY: Yes, exactly right, Michael. And we were very fortunate to partner with United Way of Metro Chicago in our efforts to respond really quickly to the challenges of the pandemic.
MICHAEL: So I'd like to ask both of you to share with our listeners an example of how you're seeking and incorporating the knowledge and expertise of communities in shaping your granting strategies? Peggy, what would you say about that?
PEGGY: I have three quick examples of open channels at the trust. First, we engage community-based coalitions in our strategic planning who are on the ground and who live the experience every day of the challenges we would like to see solved. One coalition in particular, came together originally to address the foreclosure crisis back in 2010-2011. This same coalition worked collaboratively with us to determine the next housing investment strategy, and informed our current affordable housing and home ownership and increasing access to capital strategies. So that's one example of a channel.
We also have open letter of interest channels in the trust portal where interested stakeholders can submit ideas for grants, and we've funded a number of innovative ideas through that channel.
Lastly, I'll mention We Rise Together. It's a collaborative initiative along with the private sector and the public sector and the philanthropic sector to accelerate an equitable recovery following the pandemic. The structure includes topical working groups that include community leaders and inform the We Rise Together investments in, for example, housing, small business and corporate business practices.
MICHAEL: Peggy, thanks for sharing those. Gina, can you share some of your examples as well?
GINA: Thanks, Michael. So let me address this in several fronts.
In terms of process, we task our staff, every day, to always ask a set of questions, what we call our equity lens, to ensure we are true to our value of being community-centric. And questions are on the design, on the process, on addressing root causes, and on evaluation. Things like, 'Where does the idea come from?' 'Who will be involved in the process?' 'Who gets to make a decision?' And by making this standard operating discipline, we ensure that we keep community at the center very intentionally.
In terms of strategy, I'll give you a quick example. Our Community Advisory Council, which is a group of 24 community leaders who help in every step of our work, from advising on a strategy to reviewing grants, they advise us for example, that instead of a long report which foundations usually ask for, which I don't know a foundation leader that really tells you that they read in detail, but instead of doing that, to really have a conversation, a learning conversation with the nonprofit executive to really understand for our own self how we can be better partners, how can we better support our nonprofit community, really, as central to our work. So examples both on the process side, as well as on the strategy side.
MICHAEL: Those are important points that you both shared about centering the expertise and the knowledge of communities, but let's talk a little bit about power. Can you both tell us a little more about the ways that you're deepening your efforts build power in the communities you support? Gina, why don't you kick us off this time?
GINA: Thank you, Michael. So we have really shifted more investment into our movement and power-building than at any point in our history. Close to 70% of our grants now go out through our movement and power-building work. Because we believe that the best solutions come from community, and we need to invest on the capacity to push for these solutions at a more macro level, we see this as a clear role for our institution.
So how we start is we invest in small grassroots organizations, and then we invest in capacity-building and the leadership that we know already exists. We then invest in facilitating that these leaders and organizations are able to build networks. We actually invest on the network and to then build movements.
And a quick example is something that happened just recently, where all the small airports in Santa Clara County actually had to change the way they were doing business. And let me give you a little bit more of the history. So following a study that found that elevated levels of lead that were attributable to aircraft activity at the Reid-Hillview Airport in the southern part of Santa Clara County in children that were living nearby. And after, there was incredible amount of advocacy by small grassroots organizations that weren't even environmental organizations, one was a parent-led organization, the other one, a patient advocacy organization. But these organizations got wind of this research, started hearing anecdotally from parents and the effect on their children. So after a bunch of mobilizing, these organizations, these advocates ensured that the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to halt the sale of leaded aviation gas at that airport and at every single county airport. This is an issue that was defined by the grassroots organizations, the solution was found, they did the advocacy through investment in this movement, and now the change has been seen county-wide, and I will not be surprised that this is taken up nationally.
MICHAEL: Well, and I think, as you were talking about that movement-building and that investing in leadership capacity, that reminds me of something, Peggy, that you were talking about. Could you share a little bit about your strategy on building collective power?
PEGGY: We, in fact, have an entire portfolio dedicated to building power and community, we call it Building Collective Power. And that is a recognition of the fact that Chicago has a long history of community organizers, and many of these organizations have been on the ground for a long period of time just simply addressing whatever the needs of their communities are. They're often the community leaders, and they often are not well supported by foundations and so we decided, in connection with the strategy, that in order to create the conditions for the other work that we were trying to advance that we needed to give support to these organizations who were, in many ways, leading the work on the ground.
They are critical to serving the range of needs of their community residents, both service and policy. Some of these organizations were instrumental in recent changes to Illinois laws for earned income tax credit and predatory lending. In some instances, our agendas overlap, although we don't support them with our agenda in mind, we support them with general operating support for their agendas.
MICHAEL: So, Peggy, something that you said just had me thinking about, you know, the connection between power and money. So that leads me into a question about how are you and Gina working with other stakeholders, especially your donors to advance community priorities?
PEGGY: We have, as I've mentioned, a very ambitious 10-year goal that we know we can't achieve alone. So we have to work with a number of stakeholders across the social enterprise sectors. So successful partnerships mean that we have to engage others early on to learn and join with us, as I said, including the public and private sector partners, as well as community partners. In this third year of implementation, we're doubling-down on how we can work together with our partners to achieve greater collective impact. So that's a deeper level of working together that's understanding what people are trying to achieve and where they're work is so that we can avoid redundancy and overlap, and actually leverage where we're both working together.
And then with respect to donors, we have had some success early on with individual donors who learn about our work through various channels and then approach us about how they can get engaged. We've only begun to scratch the surface. We think there's a lot more opportunities to work with donors to share what we're doing with them, to invite them on the journey with us, so that they can see the impact of this work that we think over time will be super impactful.
MICHAEL: That's a great point. Gina, anything that you'd like to add on this point?
GINA: Yes, thank you. So our role is, really, as Peggy said, to provide learning opportunities for our donors and to help them invest in solutions. This is a key to our role at the Community Foundation. Just last year, we hosted more than 30 webinars and created themed giving guides that make it easier for donors to give. We've also seen the success of aggregating capital, as it provides ease for the donors, and our donors are seeing their dollars having a real impact and leveraging other people's investment who also give. So let me give you quick examples.
We aggregated a bunch of capital towards our COVID emergency response to specific funds that focused on the emergency needs of schools, emergency needs of nonprofits, emergency needs of small business. We've also aggregated capital to really invest in movement and power-building with our LatinXCEL fund, which is a three-year 10-million-dollar initiative, to really invest in the power of Latinx-led nonprofit organizations.
We really want the donors to come in, to share the journey of learning and the journey of investment in community-led solutions with us.
MICHAEL: And I think that education and that practical approach makes a lot of sense. Similarly, how would you or how should individual donors consider incorporating place-based giving into their overall giving strategy? Gina, why don't you start us off?
GINA: Get close to the solution, understand the challenge, learn about your community, your home, your environment. Get close to change-makers who have the expertise and discover how those working on the ground are addressing challenges and solutions for your community. I think that's the magic of being a place-based foundation. And if you need help, get in touch with your local Community Foundation.
MICHAEL: Of course. Of course. Peggy, anything to add?
PEGGY: I would say that learning about what is going on in the Chicago region for us that's our community is probably the first step. The pandemic, as we know, surfaced and exacerbated already existing challenges in communities that have been ignored for a long time. They can talk to their advisor about what they would like to do and be connected to those doing the local work. We find that that is often a very powerful tool for donors to actually see what's going on in communities and to meet people that are doing the work. We also do topical donor events, where folks can learn about what's going on in communities, and all they need to do is ask their advisor about what's going on with us. We just did one a couple of weeks ago, highlighting a particular donor who learned about our wealth-building policy coalition and ended up making a significant gift.
MICHAEL: Well, I think advisors, obviously, play an important role in all this, and I'm going to bring Chris back in a moment, but before I do that, let's just get any final thoughts from each of you. Peggy, why don't you kick us off?
PEGGY: The economic wealth gap, it's a serious threat to the growth and vitality of the entire region. It impacts all of us and the solutions have to be driven by all of us. We did not get here overnight. Positive change that sticks over the long term requires our long-term commitment, as well as sustained investments in people, communities, and policy change.
MICHAEL: Hear, hear. I think that long-term commitment is something that we can often lose sight of when we're trying to address things quickly. Gina thoughts from you?
GINA: So I think what's exciting, Michael, and thank you so much for the opportunity to chat with you all today, is I think there's an inflection point in philanthropy that is so incredibly exciting and inspiring. There's a real understanding that the innovation that comes from the community is stickier, you just mentioned it, that the path towards self-determination and wellbeing for communities that have been systemically oppressed has to be led by communities themselves. And a role in philanthropy is really to use our whole set of philanthropic tools. And I'm not just only speaking about financial investments, but our own advocacy, our own research, our power to convene, to really invest in these change-makers and invest in the solutions that they're bringing to the table. Community foundations like us, like the Chicago Trust, help bring people together towards this shared goal.
MICHAEL: Chris, I'd ask you to come back and join us now and help us wrap today's discussion with some closing thoughts.
CHRIS: Sure. I'd be happy to Michael. There's so much we can learn from the great work our community foundations are doing to really empower and support local communities. As a national donor-advised fund, we at Schwab Charitable aren't really allowed to focus on a particular community, but we definitely do facilitate the ability of our donors to grant to community foundations, to support a place-based strategy as they continue to engage in this important initiative.
And as Peggy and Gina mentioned earlier, there are also ways in which individual donors can think about incorporating a place-based approach into their individual granting strategies to really help maximize the impact of their giving both now and into the future.
MICHAEL: And I think that's a great message to close on, Chris about not only thinking about now but long-term too. Well, listen, I want to thank you, Chris, and I certainly want to thank Peggy and Gina for joining us today, as well. I hope that today's discussion will help us all to think more about the importance of strengthening communities instead of simply trying to address the problems they face in silos, and even more importantly, helping empower communities to find solutions that work for them.
PEGGY: My pleasure, Michael.
CHRIS: My pleasure. Thanks.
GINA: Michael, thank you so much and thank you to Stanford Social Innovation Review for this podcast, it's such a learning opportunity for us.
MICHAEL: And thank you for listening. We hope you've enjoyed this episode. Please consider leaving us a review on Apple Podcast or your favorite listening app as it helps others discover the show. We encourage you to listen to other episodes in this series, as well as other podcasts from SSIR. This podcast series is made possible with the support of Schwab Charitable, who played an important role in the selection of topics and speakers.
For important disclosures and a transcript of this episode, visit Schwabcharitable.org/impact podcast
Empowering Community: A Closer Look at Place-Based Giving
Traditional approaches to solving various social and environmental problems taken by government, philanthropy, and nonprofits have tended to focus on specific areas, like housing, education, or health. But experience has shown us that these problems don't exist in a vacuum. A recent article published in SSIR talks about the importance of placed-based strategies for addressing challenges faced by communities and outlines several new approaches being pursued to uplift these communities. Some organizations are achieving remarkable change by focusing on transforming place first and foremost, rather than focusing on specific problems or goals in a siloed manner. They pursue holistic place-based systems change. But what does this place-based approach look like in practice? And how can we help leverage resources and relationships to empower community and achieve lasting and transformative change?
Moderator: Michael Gordon Voss, publisher of Stanford Social Innovation Review
- Gina D. Dalma, Executive Vice President, Community Action, Policy, and Strategy, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
- Peggy Davis, Vice President of Community Impact, The Chicago Community Trust
After you listen
- Download the Schwab Charitable Giving Guide to discover information, resources, and activities to help you maximize your philanthropy.
- Learn more about Silicon Valley Community Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.
If you enjoy the show, please leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts.