The team at Galesburg Community Foundation never shies away from trying new things and is committed to improving their community by challenging old structures and adopting novel partnerships. Through two new initiatives, the Community Foundation is delivering exciting ways for their region to be more connected with philanthropy than ever before.
In 2017, the Community Foundation developed a new strategic plan focused on further educating their service area of Knox and Warren Counties about the power of philanthropy. This led to a new initiative, as the Community Foundation and Forefront entered into a new partnership beyond the Community Foundation’s Forefront membership, to ultimately allow the Community Foundation to increase the creative and innovative ways they provide value to local nonprofits.
The Community Foundation prompted a multiyear funding relationship with Forefront to promote partnerships and collaborations, build talent, and provide networking and education for the nonprofit sector of Knox and Warren Counties. This partnership built what today is known as The Nonprofit Network and the Community Foundation provides a grant for this initiative to be spearheaded by Lily Blouin, Forefront’s Regional Coordinator for Statewide Partnerships. With this collaboration, the Community Foundation team could better focus their efforts to promote the impact of local philanthropy in their region. The result? The second innovative initiative that serves as an alternative to traditional methods of philanthropy: The Turnout Grant Cycle.
A Grant Cycle that Gets to the Heart of the Matter
The Turnout is the new annual funding process for the Community Foundation. For years, the Community Foundation’s Annual Grant Cycle determined funding for regional organizations, following a common procedure of accepting applications and granting funds with little interaction between funders and grantees. With the goals from their new strategic plan, the Community Foundation team decided to enhance their annual grant program by engaging and empowering local nonprofits, donors, and community stakeholders. The Community Foundation team felt that by bringing all parties together to hear from the nonprofits directly, they could better impact the important working happening in their region.
With The Turnout, nonprofits now wield the power of storytelling to better educate funders about their missions and programs. Held at Prairie Players Civic Theatre in Galesburg, the two-day event draws donors from the Community Foundation’s donor-advised funds, stakeholders, and community partners to hear nonprofits tell their story. Each organization has seven minutes to share their story and three minutes for questions. This set up requires the organizations be succinct and quickly relay the heart of their proposal and why it is important for the region. This allows the funders in the room an opportunity to truly hear and connect with the nonprofits making a difference in the region.
Tiffany Springer, Galesburg Community Foundation’s director of grants and programs said, “Using this model allows our team, our Grants Committee, and our donors to engage with our local nonprofits and hear their stories about how their work impacts our region. This in person opportunity allows nonprofits and donors to personally connect. Nonprofits tell their stories and connect with people—our donors—who want to make a difference in our region.”
Preparations this year began long before the presentation days of September 26 and 27. Organizations submitted applications for approval, attended a mandatory training, and had the option for additional workshops as part of their Nonprofit Network Membership. Now that November is here, funders are finalizing decisions, sorting through applications, and deciding where, ultimately, their funds will have the greatest impact.
Amid all the ideation and planning behind The Turnout, the Community Foundation team envisioned three focal outcomes of their new grant process.
A Shift of Priorities
The first goal was the most straightforward: shift the funding model to fully fund proposals. Tiffany said, “We know that programs can’t run on partial funding.” In the former annual Grant Cycle, the Community Foundation distributed partial awards to local nonprofits.
Joshua Gibb, President & CEO of the Community Foundation said, “This more strongly communicates to our nonprofits that we believe in them 100% and the value their programs provide our region. If we fund a grant, we want to ensure it will make an impact, hence our switch to fully funding proposals. We appreciate the work of our nonprofits and want them to know that we are in it with them.”
This doesn’t mean a decline in the number of applications receiving funding, either. Last year, more than 75% of organizations received the entire amount requested. While 2019 awards have yet to be determined, more donor participation this year means the percentage of support may climb even higher.
Josh said, “We hope this encourages and empowers the nonprofits to really look at and ask for what their true needs are. If full funding is achieved than nonprofits can focus on their work and not on finding additional funding for their program to operate.”
We’ll Cover the Coffee—You Cover the Conversation
Another exciting part of The Turnout was the introduction of Philanthropy Cafés. Nonprofits who participated in The Turnout—as well as those considering applying in the future—are welcome to attend informal meetings at a local coffee shop and discuss their proposals with funders directly. The café meetings build connectivity between nonprofits and funders while allowing nonprofits to have peer to peer engagements with one another about collective community goals.
Tiffany said, “We cover the coffee, while the nonprofits provide the conversation. This happens outside of the grant cycle and offers the opportunity to stay connected and for nonprofits to ask one another, ‘What are you doing? What’s on the horizon? What can we collaborate on?’ The Philanthropy Cafés offer a space to build relationships and communicate with one another in a casual setting. This allows organizations and donors to connect with one another outside the formal grant process.”
The Power of Relationships and Unique Grantmaking Opportunities
Josh noted another impactful component of The Turnout is that donors are becoming more educated about the nonprofit organizations in their region. He said, “Our donors aren’t just picking the organizations that are their favorites. They are really leaning in, listening, and connecting with nonprofits that are making a difference to the people who call our region home. It is truly exciting to see our donors deepen their engagement with philanthropy and broaden their understanding of our local nonprofit community.”
Now, the Community Foundation team is hearing stories of donor advisors engaging with nonprofits outside of the grant cycle. For example, a donor introduced through The Turnout to Rainbow Riders, a therapeutic horseback riding organization in the area, appeared one day and gifted three saddles. Similarly, a donor engaged in The Turnout learned about Camp Big Sky, a nonprofit organization focused on outdoor recreation for the disabled. After a tour the donor learned they could assist Camp Big Sky by moving dirt with their track loader, allowing better access to the camp. Both donor engagements were labors of love and saved each organization thousands of dollars.
Josh added, “These two examples further show the power of connecting donors and nonprofits. It highlights that not all grants happen within a formal grant cycle and by writing checks. The Turnout is creating greater connectivity between nonprofits and donors. This is absolutely what we want to have happen and we will celebrate these connections all day long.”
Because of the clear benefits of this spanned connectivity, the Community Foundation wanted to ensure they were reaching people regardless of their ability to attend the two-day Turnout presentations. Beyond simply attending the event, funders can watch videos of the presentations, and then work with the Community Foundation to provide funding to the causes they care about. Community stakeholders and donors receive a booklet containing information about the nonprofits and their proposals.
Tiffany said, “We are excited to continue The Turnout and further engage our community stakeholders and donors with the work of our nonprofits. We know this program is just getting started and there are many more connections yet to be made that will truly empower philanthropy to make a difference in our region.”
Building Connections & Capacity with Forefront
In addition to helping prepare for The Turnout, the collaboration formed with the Community Foundation and Forefront ensures that nonprofits aren’t solely just preparing for grant cycles. The aim of the partnership is to provide top quality programming that builds the capacity of nonprofits to better help them fulfill their missions. Forefront’ s Regional Coordinator for Statewide Partnerships and Director of the Nonprofit Network, Lily Blouin works closely with the nonprofits to lead the facilitation of local programming for Knox and Warren counties. This is one of Forefront’s first steps into expanding their resources to all of Western Illinois, and eventually every corner of the state.
Lily said, “It was a win-win for everyone. The Nonprofit Network combines the resources of Forefront, the Galesburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, and Galesburg Community Foundation to provide greater opportunities for programming and resource sharing. This enabled Forefront to establish a third office and increase our commitment as a statewide organization. This further allowed the Community Foundation to support nonprofits in more robust ways.”
Beyond programming, Lily’s work also includes facilitating peer-to-peer learning cohorts, connecting nonprofits with Forefront resources like Library databases, and nurture collaboration among groups.
Eric Weinheimer, President and CEO of Forefront, is thrilled with the partnership and outcomes he’s witnessed thanks to these initiatives.
He said, “Together we are taking the long-term view on how we are going to achieve greater impact. These new partnerships are innovative, thoughtful, and strategic. Together, we are ensuring the capacity of our nonprofits and the programs they provide, which is creating a ripple effect that ultimately lifts up philanthropy and the success of the region.”
Galesburg Community Foundation looks forward to announcing the recipients of The Turnout grants in mid-November. The Community Foundation, Forefront, and the Nonprofit Network are eager to see what comes next for the nonprofits in the Knox and Warren County area, and what new funding approaches, café conversations, and further elevating philanthropy can do to push the region forward together.
To learn more about Forefront’s work in Knox and Warren Counties, please feel free to reach out to Lily at email@example.com or to learn more about grant opportunities at Galesburg Community Foundation reach out to Tiffany Springer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned to https://yourgcf.org/ to see the results of The Turnout.