Giving Compass' Take:

• Tara Magner explains how the MacArthur Foundation discovered that, by giving grants, they were able to elevate nonprofits' voices and status. 

• How can grantmakers best leverage this power? What are the risks associated with this? 

• Learn how philanthropy competitions can elevate the wrong nonprofits. 

Since its inception, MacArthur’s Chicago Commitment has sought to expand our relationships with community-based organizations. One of our goals is to help elevate the voices of Chicago leaders as they work to improve community safety and promote equity and prosperity for all. We tend to think of grantmaking as our most prominent opportunity to support leaders. Yet, we increasingly hear of organizations’ desire to interact with, network with, and learn from one another.

Our team is also considering how to offer support to nonprofits to help them develop their internal strength and plan for the future. Many have asked for organizational development support with financial planning and operations, communications, board development, and evaluation, among other skills. We are exploring how to incorporate these services into existing grant programs and make them available to organizations that do not receive funds directly from MacArthur.

This last point raises one of the issues we are grappling with as a team. We want to build relationships with organizations that we have not previously known well or supported through our grantmaking.

When we make direct grants to nonprofits for the first time, the recipients often report that they receive benefits beyond the value of the grant dollars. For example, in 2017, federal executive orders dramatically increased enforcement of immigration and refugee laws, leaving many Chicagoans vulnerable to discrimination or deportation. Our team made a number of grants to support local responses. In a subsequent evaluation of the grants, organizations without a prior direct relationship to us stated that the awards raised their level of visibility with national organizations, validated their work, and helped them to be seen as leaders in their fields.

Read the full article about the power of grants by Tara Magner at MacArthur Foundation.