Most of us will never be philanthropists on the scale of Bill and Melinda Gates. The foundation model – one in which one huge donation gets an endowment together and the interest pays out grants (while the foundation continues to solicit donations to add to the endowment) – is changing, Katherine Fulton explains in her 2007 TED talk.
One of the things the Community Foundation has done through the years is help people set up personal "funds" – when you see a memorials scholarship fund, or something like that, it starts with a $5,000 check and the CNYCF's 501(c)(3). But who among the young professionals out there – here, in the Syracuse area – is writing a $5,000 check to get something amazing started?
Not many people. So the CNYCF came up with this idea: Let's find 50 young people to donate $100, and that'll be good for a $5,000 grant every year to a local non-profit.
This group of young professionals first nominates a "cause category," such as nutrition or mentoring, then sends out a request for proposals (RFP). A committee narrows the field down to a dozen or so, and then everybody who donated (we call them members) gets to vet the semifinalists, narrowing the field down to three.
Site visits are set up for the three finalists; all members may attend, and then a final vote is held.
For the 2010-2011 grant season, the topic was nutrition, and we awarded Syracuse Grows $5,000 to help them with urban gardening throughout the city.
The Future Fund is an amazing group of people. I'd encourage you to come meet some of them October 13 at the kickoff event at Montage.
Here is the first email of the season, so you can get a feel for what we do.
Greetings, Future Fund Members!
Welcome to the 2011-2012 Future Fund grant-making season. We're extremely proud of what we've done over the past few years and can't wait to get moving on the new year!
Over the past few years, you – our members – have helped make Central New York an amazing place by funding programs that provide, among other things, youth mentoring, financial literacy, workforce development, and, most recently, nutrition and wellness. With that nutrition and wellness grant, we supported Syracuse Grows, which has graciously invited us to their Harvest Dinner, a potluck event, on Sept. 25 from 3:30-5:30pm at the Southwest Community Farm, 100 Bellevue Ave., Syracuse. If you plan to go, RSVP to email@example.com.
Save the date! Our annual kickoff event is coming up Thursday, October 13 at 5:30pm. This is for members, families, friends, colleagues, and random strangers you think will enjoy a night of free hors d'oeuvres (and a cash bar). Keep an eye on your inbox in the coming weeks for the details.
Worth Watching: TED Fellow Katherine Fulton discusses the future of philanthropy. It's a 12-minute lecture on the changing model of philanthropy – the future will not be the Bill Gateses and George Soroses of the world, it will be people like us. If you come across other interesting stories of philanthropy, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Future Fund Steering Committee
The Future Fund of Central New York
c/o Central New York Community Foundation
431 East Fayette Street
Syracuse, NY 13202
Tel: 315-422-9538 email@example.com
When you make a microloan through an institution like Kiva, you're basically saying, "OK, here's someone who would never get a $500 small business loan from a bank, but if 20 of us can lend her $25, that'll get her to her goal, and if it turns out she can't pay us back, well, we're only out $25."
The Future Fund brings together young philanthropists who might want to increase their charitable footprint but don't have the capital to do so, to combine resources to make a greater impact.
OK, now I'm going to translate that into English.
The Future Fund asks a bunch of people for $100, or $250 or whatever, and combines their money into a $5,000 grant every year for some worthy organization.
I went into the kick-off figuring I was going to say no to putting up $100 because I know organizations that could do more with my $100 than some organizations could do with the Fund's $5,000.
I left the kick-off saying no for entirely different reasons.
Bowling Alone is a massive study done about civic engagement in the U.S. The title refers to the fact that bowling alleys are still doing well, but the number of people bowling in leagues is declining greatly.
It's not just bowling leagues that are suffering. Attendance is down at houses of worship; service organizations like the Elks and Rotary International are seeing declining memberships. You get the idea. More people are going it alone, and there's not a lot of gathering together.
This was Dunn's pitch: Let us pool this money together. We'll get a bunch of grant proposals, and the steering committee or advisory board will whittle down the proposals to a few finalists. Everyone who put money into the pot will then get the chance to visit all the finalists, vote on who you want to give the money to, and hopefully, while you're checking the organizations out, you'll make some connections and either want to give of your time or money once you meet them.
I can't fault people who honestly don't have time to do any volunteer work. If you're a young lawyer or doctor, you're putting in 80 hours a week, and maybe you're trying to start a family, or raise your already-young kids. If all you can do for charity is write a check, by all means write a check.
But I felt very much like the pitch was, "You don't want to put your time and energy into volunteering, and we understand that. Write us a check, and we promise we'll make you feel really good about it."
Assuming they get about 60 people to put up $100 (50 for the grant, and another $1,000 in operating costs – though I didn't ask to see their books, so I don't know how they roll), I'd be surprised if more than 10 actually do check out the organizations that are picked as finalists. I'd be surprised if five begin volunteering with one of the organizations.
Between SPaRC, the Art Forum, 40 Below, and a new project I'm hoping to get involved in this weekend, I volunteer a fair bit of my time and energy. What I think I got out of the kick-off last night was a look at what the Fund might look for from an organization I'm working with. I guess that's something.