Philanthropic Cats Are Self-Herding

Someone once told me that getting foundations to work together was worse than herding cats.  It was likely a disgruntled nonprofit.  Or a dog-lover.  Or both.

I’ve tried both wrangling cats and funders (not at the same time) and am happy to report that wrangling funders is easier.  Two recent news items hopefully give proof that other funders feel the same.

First, the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County is merging with its larger metro area neighbor, The Pittsburgh Foundation.  Westmoreland County donors and nonprofits are gaining access to cheaper, but more robust services, while still having a local board and staff to work with.  I worked at a community foundation that was the product of a similar urban-suburban alliance and know that both counties benefited from the shared knowledge and services.

I think that trends in donor expectations, regional economic issues, and increased competition from for-profit providers are making it increasingly tough to sustain a small community foundation.  Hopefully this new merger will kick off similar conversations in other metro areas.

Second, a dozen national foundations are pooling $506 million in a unified application process to help education nonprofits apply for the federal Investing in Innovation Fund (i3).   The i3 requires a 20% cash match from applicants.  The new Foundation Registry i3 provides a one-step site for a non-profit to post information about its i3 application in hopes of attracting match from one or more of the national foundations.  While there are many funder collaboratives across the country, very few involve this many large foundations.  And very few, if any, involve those foundations running the collaborative themselves instead of through a third party.

The philanthropic world is purring just a little more contentedly today…