What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Giving Compass' Take:
• Stanford Social Innovation Review looks at how private long-term investment can help spur public engagement in environmental conservation and beyond through the lens of California's Resources Legacy Fund.
• How patient and nimble is your own organization or the partners you work with? The example in this piece showed how 15 years of methodical work finally yielded results. Slow and steady wins the race!
Advocates of “strategic philanthropy” argue that charitable foundations should set explicit goals and measure results against them. Advocates of an “emergent model” of philanthropy resist command-and-control governance structures in favor of flexibility.
We’ll never resolve the debate over how far foundations should go in influencing their grantees’ work—this tension is inherent to philanthropy. But perhaps we can all agree on the highly catalytic value of early, patient, and nimble investments, especially when it comes to public-private partnerships.
When donors seize an opportunity, stay engaged over many years, then pounce again to take advantage of the new opportunities their initial investment unleashes, they can achieve exponentially greater results than they would with a time-limited set of grants that assumes a certain cause-and-effect will happen.
Early capital creates momentum and invariably stimulates other private and public funding. Patient capital gives grantees running room to be effective and experimental, and to adapt from lessons learned. And nimble capital provides flexibility to get things done in an ever-changing world, as donors and grantees exploit unanticipated opportunities.
We’re talking about savvy, instinct, grit, flexibility, and persistence. And we believe they matter in philanthropy for the same reasons they make sense in our own lives: Good things often take time. Life does not unfold in a linear or even logical way. Sometimes opportunity knocks only once.
What long-term investments can do
Back in 2001, Resources Legacy Fund (RLF), a California-based environmental nonprofit, joined forces with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation — all private foundations based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Together, we worked closely with Senator Dianne Feinstein and the state of California to help acquire and catalyze the restoration of Bay Area commercial salt ponds — diked ponds used since Gold Rush days to evaporate and collect salt. Our chief goal was to reclaim for wildlife some of the roughly 187,000 acres of baylands that development had cut off from tides since the 1800s, and to make the beauty of the bay more accessible for hikers, birders, and all residents. ...
In June 2016 — 15 years after we began work on this project — Bay Area voters passed Measure AA, a parcel tax to raise $500 million over 20 years. The funds will match state and federal funding to support wildlife and wetlands restoration, trails and recreational facilities, and flood protection for communities rimming the bay. The first wave of funding was approved this month. Though profound and unstoppable changes lie ahead, Bay Area residents now have the means to protect both cities and wetlands for the long term.
Stubborn but flexible philanthropy made this possible.
Read the full article about how patient philanthropy can make or break public-private partnerships by Michael Mantell and Mary Scoonover at Stanford Social Innovation Review.