Our Foundation helps disadvantaged people to obtain education and employment. We do this through organizations such as schools, universities and non-profits. We chose carefully. We think of ourselves as investors and look for organizations with smart, energetic people, good ideas and alignment of interest. Once we make the decision to invest, these organizations become our partners.
The term “partner” is often used loosely. What do we mean?
The Foundation and its grantee may be in a joint venture to help people, but it is the grantee that actually does the work. We are mutually dependent. Everything else flows from this simple truism.
So what does this look like? In scholarship programs, partnership often involves building an endowment over a period of years, in addition to student scholarships. Some grant makers will not fund endowments; they prefer more immediate need. We think that endowments are a means to build grantee capacity and ensure that scholarships will continue to be granted after we have moved on. They also provide leverage for Foundation grants. Most of our endowment grants are matched 2, 3 and even 4 to 1 by other donors.
The Foundation has made matching scholarship grants at all of the State Universities in Florida. It has used matching grants to help build endowments at University of Central Florida and its Direct Connect partners, Eastern Florida, Lake Sumter, Seminole and Valencia Colleges; University of Florida; University of South Florida; and University of West Florida. It is presently in negotiations with two more state universities in Florida.
Outside of Florida, the Foundation has used its matching endowments to build capacity at tribal colleges and universities serving Indigenous Peoples. Two of the Foundation’s largest and most effective scholarship programs operate at tribal colleges that it has not funded for many years, namely Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota and Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation, Montana. Matching grants have helped to build scholarship endowments at other tribal colleges, the American Indian College Fund, and several universities that serve Indigenous Peoples.
One of our first matching endowments was to endow the City Music
program at Berklee College of Music. City Music is a program that engages, mentors and educates underserved youth in order to encourage them to finish school and pursue post-secondary education. We funded all aspects of this program from its beginning in Boston to its expansion to other locations. Many years ago we helped Berklee to build a multi-million dollar scholarship endowment for City Music and today the City Music Network has 40 partners in diverse locations, including Canada.
From the examples given above (and numerous others) matching endowment grants have proven an excellent vehicle for partnership between the Foundation and its grantees. It is a reliable strategy to leverage grant money and to help grantees to build capacity. At the end of a successful matching grant, the grantee is stronger and more independent. It has the endowment and, even more important, an enhanced fundraising capacity. It is better equipped to carry on with its work (and thereby advance the Foundation’s mission) and the Foundation is free to move on to other opportunities.