How Foundations Can Leverage Their Role as Conveners to Change the World

Chelsea Edwards

Foundations are constantly bringing together stakeholders from both the private and public sectors to grow their impact. They are the bridge between critical funding and impactful programs that deliver changemaking outcomes. In 2014 public charities received $55.3 billion in funding from foundation grants alone (source), and in 2015 Foundation giving exceeded $62B (source). But beyond just the financial element of their work, Foundations impact causes and communities because they are conveners. They are the epicenters of their social good ecosystems, bringing together donors, investors, change agents, government entities, and mission-driven organizations who are dedicated to making an impact.

Although Foundations are often locally, regionally, or topically focused, foundations are an essential part of achieving global initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals, because Foundations are connectors.

"The 17 SDGs represent a global agenda," said Council on Foundations president and CEO Vikki Spruill. "But they require local action to achieve them. Community foundations — place-based, grassroots organizations addressing local challenges — have been overlooked as a means to achieving the SDGs. There is a major opportunity before us to leverage their unmatched convening power and local knowledge to improve lives on a global scale." (source).

According to SDGFunders, Foundation SDG funding worldwide came in at over $121B in 2016. This level of impact is not isolated to a particular type of Foundation or funder profile– Private Foundations, Community Foundations, and Donor Advised Funds are all contributing in a meaningful way to these global outcomes. In fact, the top 3 funders by financial contributions came in as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Fidelity Charitable, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Funders across the philanthropic sector are leveraging their role as conveners to make an impact both locally and globally.

The social good ecosystem becomes complete when this funding is distributed to philanthropic partners—nonprofits, grantees, government entities, and community groups—who then connect funding with populations in need globally. For instance, Children & Youth received over $24B in funding, by way of 553K grants in 2016, while Women & Girls saw over $8B and 211K grants. (source).

Through the lens of the SDG’s, we are beginning to see how foundations can leverage their position as philanthropic connectors to impact global causes collectively. As they tie together investors, people, and communities, foundations play the vital role of conveners in the social good ecosystem. And by connecting their initiatives through sustainable, shared goals, we can really begin to see the value of convening on a macro scale, and the potential to change the world becomes more real than ever before.

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