Over the past several months I have received calls from dozens of philanthropic leaders eager to help ensure that the trillions of dollars flowing to US communities through the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act reach the country’s most vulnerable communities. But they often don’t know where their dollars will make the most impact.

While building things like roads and bridges or providing clean water is traditionally the work of government, public-philanthropic partnership provides a framework to ensure that local, state, and federal governments work closely with community-based organizations and philanthropic entities so that government funding actually serves people’s needs and lays the groundwork for lasting, equitable change.

The good news is that we have strong models for governing in partnership with the philanthropic sector to support local communities and scale impact at all levels of government. In cities across the country, Bloomberg Associates’ Collaborative Cities initiative, for example, is seeding partnerships between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to help cities creatively tackle social issues. The initiative helps different partners marshal resources, coordinate responses, and leverage the unique assets each brings to the table. In Michigan, the Office of the Foundation Liaison has an 18-year track record of forging partnerships between state government and the philanthropic sector to encourage programs or policy reforms that would improve the lives of residents. And in California, Governor Newsom has led 42 public-philanthropic partnerships leveraging more than $4 billion in private funding to advance policy priorities like addressing homelessness and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on the dozens of public-private partnerships we’ve led in California, we see three areas where philanthropic funders would do well to invest now:

  1. Civic Infrastructure Through Community Capacity Building
  2. Technical Assistance
  3. Research and Evaluation

Philanthropic leaders should examine opportunities to partner with state and local agencies to ensure that research and evaluation are built into infrastructure spending from the start, as opposed to being an afterthought.

Read the full article about government and philanthropic partnerships by Kathleen Kelly Janus at Stanford Social Innovation Review.